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NONFICTION : CURSE OF THE GIANT MUFFINS AND OTHER WASHINGTON MALADIES by Michael Kinsley (Summit Books: $17.95; 286 pp.).

November 29, 1987|David Shaw

A few months ago, a journalist of my acquaintance--a young lady whose gift for clever repartee is exceeded only by her rampant neuroses--called to ask what I thought of Michael Kinsley, the editor of The New Republic. Several friends had urged her to meet him, she said, and she knew I had interviewed him a couple of times. I asked if these friends wanted her to ask Kinsley for a date or for a writing a assignment. She wasn't sure. "Try both," I suggested.

I'm not sure what she did, but judging from this collection of Kinsley's columns in The New Republic (and assorted other publications), I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Kinsley as either a prospective editor or a prospective beau. He's witty, extremely intelligent, a splendid prose stylist and--most delightful of all in a Washington columnist--unlikely to take himself (or anyone--or anything) too seriously.

He skewers James Reston of the New York Times, caustically describes the progress of respected New York financier Felix Rohatyn from "Felix the Fixer to Felix the Philosopher" and criticizes The New Yorker for its "smug insularity, its tiny Dada conceits passing as wit, its whimsy presented as serious politics . . . ." Kinsley is even tougher on George Bush and Armand Hammer--not to mention assorted social customs, media institutions and political practices.

But Kinsley is not simply a scold. He also writes amusingly of his search for a New York apartment and provocatively of the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion--"one of the worst things that ever happened to American liberalism." Collections of columns are often outdated--little more than exercises in journalistic self-aggrandizement--but Kinsley easily escapes both pitfalls. He's well worth reading between hard covers--even if you're not looking for a job or a date.

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