Monday, July 16, 2007

Dispatches From the Edge

A Memoir of War, Disasters, and Survival

I have always thought of Anderson Cooper as a thoughtful-looking self-contained news guy, and expected this book to be a fair amount of self-promotional blather interspersed with a few biographical details. Instead, I found that Anderson Cooper, in addition to being a t-l s-c news guy, writes like one. This memoir is thoughtful, self-contained, filled with news-that-was, and surprisingly well written. (My expectations are seldom high.)

The wars are comprehensive--Bosnia, Somalia, Niger, Iraq. The disasters are earth-shattering news--Sri Lanka after the tsunami, Rwanda at the beginning of the starvation, Hurricane Katrina--and life-shattering personal tragedies--the death of his father when he was ten, and the harrowing suicide of his only brother while he was at college. The survival is his own, both personally and professionally.

Stories of his childhood and personal life are interspersed with behind-the-scenes reviews of the headline news he covered, from his first post-college foray into Thailand as a freelancer to his four-week CNN coverage of Hurricane Katrina damage from Baton Rouge to New Orleans. Cooper's knack of stringing these seemingly-disparate stories into a cohesive whole is a testament to his intelligence and skill. Add to that his ability to completely sidestep any personal life he might have had since 1991, and his skills ratchet up even higher. (You think I exaggerate? Careful reading reveals the existence of a dog, friends, and a phone call to his mother.)

So, if you think you could like this, read it. You will.


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