Rebellions, Perversities, and Main Events
Baker & Taylor
This collection of essays on the characters and issues of American life features Kempton's best columns, reviews, and reportage
Blackwell North Amer
In today's society, the model citizen is too often one with neither memory nor traditions. Murray Kempton's refusal to relinquish either is among his greatest achievements. He knows that the chaos of daily events can only be understood through the prism of the past. He is a man suffused with a seemingly inexhaustible appetite for the life of the mind. He is that rare reporter whose skepticism has never succumbed to cynicism.
The best of Murray Kempton's columns, essays, reviews, and reportage, Rebellions, Perversities, and Main Events is, in the words of David Remnick, "like watching an endless parade of the great characters of American life: Whittaker Chambers and Alger Hiss, Paul Robeson and Malcolm X, Bessie Smith and Louis Armstrong, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan. Kempton's sense of the absurd and his ability to sketch a scene in a few sentences, to deflate the pompous in a phrase, make the parade as rich as any great novel .... [These pieces] constitute not merely a set of triumphant riffs, a scatter of portraits. They add up to a portrait of their author."
For more than forty years, Murray Kempton has managed to wed passion to polemic, while at the same time remaining free of prejudice. It is a feat almost unique among political writers. In prose that is utterly American in its cadences, free of the cliches that clutter so much of what passes for journalism today. Murray Kempton has used his pen to discomfort the powerful and succor the weak throughout his career.
A man congenitally suspicious of all nostrums. Murray Kempton's method is that of the magnifying glass: Under his scrutiny no important detail of our sad century has passed unnoticed. And like the magnifying glass, a ray of truth caught in Kempton's lens for too long becomes concentrated light: it catches fire. Moreover, his refusal to simplify the world and his recognition of the ambiguity in human affairs has not condemned him to moral paralysis; rather it has made possible the lucidity which so many of us seek, but which so few of us find. His love of paradox and gift of irony informs virtually every sentence he has penned.
Simply put, Murray Kempton embodies, in the finest American tradition, all the characteristics of a good reporter. He has an instinct for the jugular, a long memory, a sense of irony and humor, a passion for life, and he knows how to make use of the Dewey Decimal System. Above all, he knows that the important question is always: "For whom?" Murray Kempton is a man of fundamental decency, whose abhorrence of injustice and love of truth is palpable on every page of this remarkable collection. His belief in reason, in persuasion, in moral sobriety - indeed, his commitment to civilized discourse itself - is as refreshing as it is rare.
Murray Kempton, as any reader will instantly see upon opening virtually any page of this cornucopia, has enriched the landscape of American journalism. "Anybody can make history." Oscar Wilde once observed. "Only a great man can write it."
This collection of ruminations on the characters and issues of American life features the best columns, essays, reviews, and reportage by the author, a noted newspaper columnist. 15,000 first printing.
New York : Times Books, 
Branch Call Number:
xv, 570 pages ; 25 cm