Cooper reports ‘Dispatches from the Edge’
Posted September 27, 2009on:
In “Dispatches from the Edge,” Anderson Cooper shares not only the wild encounters in his professional life, but the emotional encounters in his personal life. Knowing that he’s the son of Gloria Vanderbilt and the late Wyatt Cooper, one thinks that he might live a much different life.
At the age of 24, he writes, “I was on my own with just a home video camera and a fake press pass. I wanted to be a war correspondent but couldn’t get a job.” He writes that by 25 everything changed because he had a job and he received a salary to travel to wars.
Over the years, Cooper reported not only on wars but on tragedies world-wide. His graphic descriptions of the havoc and destruction caused by the tsunami in Sri Lanka, the starving children in Niger, the war and danger in Sarajevo, the devastation of Katrina and the casualties of war in Iraq truly take the reader on his journeys into the unbelievable horrors of these events. Cooper never minces words or sugar-coats descriptions of the bodies or the conditions that he sees.
“I used to think that some good would come of my stories, that someone might be moved to act because of what I’d report,” writes Cooper. “I’m not sure I believe that anymore.”
He came to Sarajevo for the first time in 1993 dressed in his Kevlar vest and helmet, but on return trips, he says that he leaves this protection behind in his vehicle when he goes to people’s houses for interviews. He feels the need to accept life as unprotected as they do so that they trust him and tell their stories.
“Hurtling across the oceans, from one conflict to the next, one disaster to another,” Cooper writes, “I sometimes believe it’s motion that keeps me alive as well. I hit the ground running: truck gassed up camera rolling-‘locked and loaded, ready to rock,’ as a soldier in Iraq once said to me.”
Between these action scenes of disaster and mayhem, Cooper inserts passages of loosing his father unexpectedly when he was 10. Later he also describes the horror of his older, 23-year-old brother Carter’s suicide at his mother’s apartment as she watched.
Cooper writes this book with great honesty, compassion and detail. One learns about his life and about the lives of people who work as great foreign correspondents and everyday heroes. I’ve read the book twice and never get tired of the stories that Cooper tells. I’m not quite sure why he’s not gone over the edge with all of his trials and experiences, but I’m glad that he continues to go out and get the true stories to share with all of us.