A provocative voice - replayed; The Village Voice Anthology (1956-1980), edited by Geoffrey Stokes. New York: William Morrow & Co. 331 pp. $15.50 in hardcover, $7.50 in paperback.
The ''neighborhood newspaper'' that became the iconoclastic brat of the communications business during the early 1960s quickly outreached its necessary emphasis on New York City politics and problems, and became a semiofficial organ of the emergent New Left. The ''Voice'' has always had incisive and challenging things to say about the civil rights, antiwar, women's, and gay liberation movements; it's been careful to stay near the forefront of these and other social struggles, and its battle reports have always been distinguished by their expository directness and colorfully pungent plain style.
There are some throwaway pieces included here. But there is much genuine - and genuinely savage - social criticism in such vivid reportage as Vivian Gornick's description of the squalor and despair stalking the Manhattan subways, Frances Fitzgerald's (1966) picturing of Vietnam (''a country deranged''), and Greil Marcus's sardonic, disturbing ''Rock Death in the '70s.'' Admirers of derisive expose will be especially grateful for Lucian Truscott's savvy account of Alexander Haig's unquenchable careerism, and James Wolcott's skewering of our ''intellectual Killer Elite'' (Fiedler, Sontag, Steiner, and others).
Even if you can't tell the New Journalism from the old soft shoe, you'll surely find in the ''Village Voice Anthology'' something to provoke, offend, and enlighten you.