Kopkind Revisited

by Gregory McNamee 

The Thirty Years War: Dispatches and Diversions of a Radical Journalist, 1965-1994, by Andrew Kopkind (Verso Books). Paper, $20.

THE LATE ANDREW Kopkind possessed both the hard eye of the street-wise reporter and the historical depth of a scholar. In this anthology of his work for journals like The Nation and Ramparts, both qualities are abundant. Reading through Kopkind's literate reporting, one revisits recent history in flashback. One episode concerns the "morality playlet" of Joe Namath's forced resignation from professional football for owning a bar in which gambling took place--while the owner of the New York Jets also owned a race track in New Jersey and put big money on the Super Bowl. Another episode addresses the abundant hypocrisies of the ballyhooed Woodstock festival, "an environment created by a couple of hip entrepreneurs to consolidate the culture revolution and extract the money of its troops." Still another episode, one much more recent, is Paul Reubens' (Pee-Wee Herman) big misadventure in a Florida porno theatre. "Don't think you can survive as a rebel, however hilarious, in TV's well-fortified cultural garrison," Kopkind wisely observes.

Whether writing of the misdoings of presidents, Black Panthers and Green Berets; of the Bay of Pigs, the Stonewall Riot, disco, or modern literature, Kopkind commands the extraordinary ability to delight and rile at the same moment. Shelve this collection next to the best writings of I.F. Stone and H.L. Mencken in that great library of books that torment the comfortable. TW

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