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GRAD SCHOOLING: The funniest graduation speech delivered thus far in the 00's was probably Tony Kushner's, given last spring at Columbia. Kushner had discovered he was not the university's first choice to speak (Jon Stewart was), and he stepped up to the podium and said: ''I think I should begin by acknowledging your disappointment that I am not Jon Stewart. Think how I feel. Your disappointment that I am not Jon Stewart will last one morning; I am disappointed at not being Jon Stewart every morning of my life.'' Funny graduation speeches, alas, are rarely turned into bite-size books to be marketed around the time of later graduations. Earnest speeches frequently are. Anna Quindlen's new book, ''Being Perfect,'' is based on the graduation speech she gave at Mount Holyoke in 1999. And Maria Shriver's new book, ''And One More Thing Before You Go . . . ,'' is expanded from a luncheon speech she delivered not long ago to graduating high school girls and their mothers. (Shriver's bold advice includes ''Learn from your mistakes'' and ''You'll need a lot of courage.'') Shriver's book hits the hardcover miscellaneous list this week at No. 3, pushed along by an appearance on ''Oprah,'' during which Oprah introduced her by intoning the 11 words every woman with a new book dreams of hearing from her: ''My old girlfriend, old, old, old, we go so far back.'' FREAK FACTOR: ''If Indiana Jones were an economist, he'd be Steven Levitt.'' That's a Wall Street Journal reviewer's take on Levitt, a 37-year-old University of Chicago economist whose new book, ''Freakonomics,'' written with Stephen J. Dubner, enters the hardcover nonfiction list at No. 5. But ''Freakonomics'' is so sly, finicky and micro-observant that the Indiana Jones comparison feels a little off -- Levitt is more like the Nicholson Baker of economists. His specialty is asking some unusual questions: ''How is the Ku Klux Klan like a group of real estate agents?''; ''Why do drug dealers still live with their moms?'' The answers tend to be provocative. The most eye-popping assertion in ''Freakonomics'' may be that the drop in crime during the 1990's had little to do with a strong economy or new police strategies. The real reason, Levitt says, was Roe v. Wade. ''An entire generation came of age minus the children whose mothers had not wanted to bring a child into the world,'' he and Dubner write. ''Legalized abortion led to less unwantedness; unwantedness leads to high crime.'' On NPR, Scott Simon asked Levitt if it was true he'd been offered a job in the Bush administration. Yes, Levitt said, then added, ''I told them you better go back and look at the study I did on the link between abortion and crime and if you're still interested, call me back, and I never did get that return phone call.'' Dwight Garner


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