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

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9780061138058: Dispatches from the Edge: A Memoir of War, Disasters, and Survival

From one of America’s leading reporters comes a deeply personal, extraordinarily powerful look at the most volatile crises he has witnessed around the world, from New Orleans to Baghdad and beyond.

Dispatches from the Edge of the World is a book that gives us a rare up-close glimpse of what happens when the normal order of things is suddenly turned upside down, whether it’s a natural disaster, a civil war, or a heated political battle. Over the last year, few people have witnessed more scenes of chaos and conflict than Anderson Cooper, whose groundbreaking coverage on CNN has become the touchstone of twenty-first century journalism. This book explores in a very personal way the most important - and most dangerous - crises of our time, and the surprising impact they have had on his life.

From the devastating tsunami in South Asia to the suffering Niger, and ultimately Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, Cooper shares his own experiences of traversing the globe, covering the world’s most astonishing stories. As a television journalist, he has the gift of speaking with an emotional directness that cuts through the barriers of the medium. In his first book, that passion communicates itself through a rich fabric of memoir and reportage, reflection and first-person narrative. Unflinching and utterly engrossing, this is the story of an extraordinary year in a reporter’s life.

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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

From the Back Cover:

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.

After growing up on Manhattan's Upper East Side, Cooper felt a magnetic pull toward the unknown. 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.

But recently, during the course of one extraordinary, tumultuous year, it became impossible for him to continue to separate his work from his life. 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. 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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