BOOKS: Mandarin with a Knife

Murray Kempton dissects the heroes and scoundrels of his time

Could any other tabloid newspaperman have been found on a New York City sidewalk in the middle of the afternoon, puffing a pipe and surveying the passing scene while listening to the music of Henry Purcell? It was Monday, the one working day he wasn't on deadline, and Murray Kempton was happy to slip off the earphones of his portable CD player and muse about Rebellions, Perversities and Main Events (Times Books; 570 pages; $27.50), a new collection of his writings.

Comprising 70-odd pieces from such journals as the New York Post, the New York Review of Books, the New Republic...

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