Dispatches from the Edge: A Memoir of War, Disasters, and Survival by Anderson Cooper
Ok, so it’s no surprise I read this. We all know I heart AC. (I just know if I’d have been rich & gone to Yale, we’d have met in the dorms and become BFFs! As it is, I’ll have to make do with those twinny moments when he says the exact thing I just said except he’s on TV and people actually hear him.) The only surprising thing is how long it took me to buy it. I meant to buy it as soon as it came out in paperback, but then I got distracted with all that directed-reading reading and visits from-and-to friends & rellies over the summer. All good, but how could I have forgotten AC? And then on a bookstore foray I saw it. eep! Immediately book was purchased so it could be read on vacay. Yes! I bought a full price new book! Second one this year! Possibly a record! (j/k)
So anyway… if you’ve read his Details columns or his posts on the AC360 Blog, then the writing style will be familiar. If you like it there, you’ll like it here and vice versa. I like the contrast of the simplicity of the writing with the chaoticness of the situations, but I realize that won’t work for everyone. When I looked at the Amazon reviews, I noticed some people think his emotions seem too subdued, but I disagree, because that uber-quiet/shutdown reaction is exactly how I get when I’m really upset (if I’m ranting/raving, I’m fine). The other nitpick is (of course) that he doesn’t discuss his present day personal life. I think those people are missing the point of this book, which is really about how his career has been a way for him to deal with the deaths of his father (when he was 10) and his brother (when he was 21). So the book flips back-and-forth between his present-day reporting and the past, making connections between the two. It’s a memoir, not an autobiography. Memoir doesn’t have to be all-inclusive; it can focus on certain events or elements of one’s life.
Because AC was only 10 when his father died, his love for his dad is that of a 10-year-old—uncomplicated by adult conflict—and it makes you think about both the good and the bad of that. Because we’re so close in age and I also have one brother (I know he has two much older half-brothers, but they aren’t mentioned here), it was hard not to do the “what if…” thing. Without the extraordinary circumstances of the deaths of two of his immediate family, he probably wouldn’t have obtained a fake press pass and headed off to a war zone. In fact, he could have led a very comfortable life without doing much of anything (or at least anything of substance—as we know many children of the very rich do). But I think not only was he on a quest to make sense of his losses, but he also had an awareness of mortality that most people in their twenties don’t have, since there was a history of early deaths on his father’s side of the family. So that probably pushed him to take more risks than the average person—and also to not wait till some magical future date to do the things he wants to (like so many people do).