''New York Times'' reporter LeDuff has a clear arena of interest: ''I write about the people who live in neighborhoods, crowded apartments and dreary ranch houses. These are the people who shovel their own snow and have fat aunties who wear stretch pants with stains on the ass.'' His extraordinary collection of profiles is an ode to the regular joe: the grave digger, the used-car salesman, the East Side barber, the street-corner Santa, and, memorably, the Sinatra interpreter who'd hit you for calling him an impersonator ('''There is a fine line between the Rubenstein bar mitzvah and art. I am, I must say with all humility, an artist'''). LeDuff's loving portraits of the assorted bars where working men go to wet their lips could make a drunk out of you. And this LeDuff fan really will have to hit the bottle if the recent and, so far, isolated accusations of plagiarism stick.