Dennis Kucinich, , foreword by Studs Terkel. . Thunder's Mouth/Nation, $11.95 (160pp) ISBN 978-1-56025-510-9

In 1977, aged 31, Kucinich was elected "Boy Mayor" of Cleveland. Now a U.S. representative from Ohio, he is one of the most interesting and unusual members of the Democratic presidential field for 2004. His strong, even radical positions on workers' rights, the environment, health care, foreign policy and defense give him a good claim to represent "the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party" and to challenge the business-oriented centrism promoted by the Democratic Leadership Council. A thoughtful explanation and defense of Kucinich's views would be an important contribution to the national debate. Unfortunately, this hastily assembled collection of speeches doesn't fit the bill. Short on logic, analysis and detail, these addresses, delivered to such friendly audiences as labor unions and peace groups, are filled with applause lines that may work as oratory but make tedious reading. Intriguing notions like the proposal for a Department of Peace end up sounding half-baked; would it really make sense for such a department to address social ills as diverse as spousal abuse and police-community relations along with international diplomacy? At times, policy issues vanish altogether in a blur of New Age rhetoric ("Spirit merges with matter to sanctify the universe. Matter transcends, to return to spirit"). The result is a book that will disappoint all but hard-core fans and supporters of Kucinich. (Nov.)