Dispatches from the Edge: A Memoir of War, Disasters, and Survival

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9780061132384: Dispatches from the Edge: A Memoir of War, Disasters, and Survival

Few people have witnessed more scenes of chaos and conflict around the world than Anderson Cooper, whose groundbreaking coverage on CNN has changed the way we watch the news. In this gripping, candid, and remarkably powerful memoir, he offers an unstinting, up–close view of the most harrowing crises of our time, and the profound impact they have had on his life.

After growing up on Manhattan's Upper East Side, Cooper felt a magnetic pull toward the unknown, an attraction to the far corners of the earth. If he could keep moving, and keep exploring, he felt he could stay one step ahead of his past, including the fame surrounding his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, and the tragic early deaths of his father and older brother. As a reporter, the frenetic pace of filing dispatches from war–torn countries, and the danger that came with it, helped him avoid having to look too closely at the pain and loss that was right in front of him.

But recently, during the course of one extraordinary, tumultuous year, it became impossible for him to continue to separate his work from his life, his family's troubled history from the suffering people he met all over the world. From the tsunami in Sri Lanka to the war in Iraq to the starvation in Niger and ultimately to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and Mississippi, Cooper gives us a firsthand glimpse of the devastation that takes place, both physically and emotionally, when the normal order of things is violently ruptured on such a massive scale. Cooper had been in his share of life–threatening situations before – ducking fire on the streets of war–torn Sarejevo, traveling on his own to famine–stricken Somalia, witnessing firsthand the genocide in Rwanda – but he had never seen human misery quite like this. Writing with vivid memories of his childhood and early career as a roving correspondent, Cooper reveals for the first time how deeply affected he has been by the wars, disasters, and tragedies he has witnessed, and why he continues to be drawn to some of the most perilous places on earth.

Striking, heartfelt, and utterly engrossing, Dispatches from the Edge is an unforgettable memoir that takes us behind the scenes of the cataclysmic events of our age and allows us to see them through the eyes of one of America's most trusted, fearless, and pioneering reporters.

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Review:

In 2005, two tragedies--the Asian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina--turned CNN reporter Anderson Cooper into a media celebrity. Dispatches from the Edge, Cooper's memoir of "war, disasters and survival," is a brief but powerful chronicle of Cooper's ascent to stardom and his struggle with his own tragedies and demons. Cooper was 10 years old when his father, Wyatt Cooper, died during heart bypass surgery. He was 20 when his beloved older brother, Carter, committed suicide by jumping off his mother's penthouse balcony (his mother, by the way, being Gloria Vanderbilt). The losses profoundly affected Cooper, who fled home after college to work as a freelance journalist for Channel One, the classroom news service. Covering tragedies in far-flung places like Burma, Vietnam, and Somalia, Cooper quickly learned that "as a journalist, no matter ... how respectful you are, part of your brain remains focused on how to capture the horror you see, how to package it, present it to others." Cooper's description of these horrors, from war-ravaged Baghdad to famine-wracked Niger, is poignant but surprisingly unsentimental. In Niger, Cooper writes, he is chagrined, then resigned, when he catches himself looking for the "worst cases" to commit to film. "They die, I live. It's the way of the world," he writes. In the final section of Dispatches, Cooper describes covering Hurricane Katrina, the story that made him famous. The transcript of his showdown with Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu (in which Cooper tells Landrieu people in New Orleans are "ashamed of what is happening in this country right now") is worth the price of admission on its own. Cooper's memoir leaves some questions unanswered--there's frustratingly little about his personal life, for example--but remains a vivid, modest self-portrait by a man who is proving himself to be an admirable, courageous leader in a medium that could use more like him. -- Erica C. Barnett

About the Author:

Anderson Cooper joined CNN in 2001 and has anchored his own program, Anderson Cooper 360°, since 2003. He had previously served as a correspondent for ABC News and was a foreign correspondent for Channel One News. Cooper has won several awards for his work, including an Emmy. He graduated from Yale University in 1989 and also studied Vietnamese at the University of Hanoi. He writes regularly for Details magazine.

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