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Dispatches from the Edge: A Memoir of War, Disasters, and Survival Hardcover – May 23, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com 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 Publishers Weekly

HarperCollins touts the handsome, prematurely gray host of CNN's Anderson Cooper 360°as the "prototype for a twenty-first century newsman." Sadly, that statement is all too true. This brief, self-involved narrative reaffirms a troubling cultural shift in news coverage: journalists used to cover the story; now, more than ever, they are the story. Cooper is an intrepid reporter: he's traveled to tsunami-ravaged Asia, famine-plagued Niger, war-torn Somalia and Iraq, and New Orleans post-Katrina. Here, however, the plights of the people and places he visits take a backseat to the fact that Cooper is, well, there. The Yale-educated son of heiress and designer Gloria Vanderbilt weaves personal tragedies (at 10, he lost his father to heart disease and later his older brother to suicide) awkwardly into far graver stories of suffering he's observing. Even when he plies the reader with his own unease ("the more sadness I saw, the more success I had") and obliquely decries TV news's demand for images of extreme misery ("merely sick won't warrant more than a cut-away shot"), he seems to place himself in front of his subjects. Cooper is an intelligent, passionate man and he may be a terrific journalist. But this book leaves one feeling he's little more than a television personality. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; First Edition edition (May 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061132381
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061132384
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (321 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,058,430 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

It it very well written.
Lili Johansen
I admire Mr. Cooper for his honesty about the inner turmoils of his life and the truly sincere caring he brings to every story he covers.
If I were forced to sum this book up with one word, it would be authentic.
Richard A. Puffer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

193 of 210 people found the following review helpful By Nor'easter VINE VOICE on May 23, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Too often, those we see on television are packaged into a personality that is devoid of inner demons- everything is slick and beautiful. Anderson Cooper lets us inside of the pain in his life and his imperfections and the road he has travelled in dealing with his demons. Of course, we also read about the man we see on television- deeply caring and willing to ask the very hard questions in any situation. I admire Mr. Cooper for his honesty about the inner turmoils of his life and the truly sincere caring he brings to every story he covers. And for those who think he is on an ego trip talking about his wounded youth- wake up! Our pasts are a deeply ingrained part of every one of us and sometimes we do not integrate the pain of a wounded childhood until we are adults and in Anderson's case until he has witnessed the most obscene of suffering on this earth. Kudos- a very well written first book from Mr. Cooper.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By bookcrazy on June 2, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I just finished Dispatches from the Edge, and found myself close to tears as I read the final pages. While ultimately uplifting, Cooper, I think, writes of the search that many of us go through to bring meaning to pain and loss. While searching for some solace, he finds a way to illuminate the tragedies of others. He recognizes, due to his own famous family, that there is a balance that constantly has to be examined between reporting and voyeurism, and seem to work to always keep the scales in order.

For those expecting straight reporting, there will be disappointment, for there is more of a blend of narrative and recollection, and the mix brings an interesting melancholy to scenes already overwhelmingly sad. Cooper's loss, both of his father and his brother, color much of his reporting, and rather than detracting from it, adds a great deal of emotional context.
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Format: Hardcover
Deemed by CNN programming executive Jonathan Klein as the "anchorperson of the future", Anderson Cooper has experienced the type of meteoric rise that is bound to draw critical diatribes as well as hosannas. Based on personal journals he has kept, his newly published book will unlikely shift opinions drastically, but this relatively brief memoir does provide an intriguing, sometimes poignant portrait of a man who let his natural curiosity of the world fester into a career in television journalism. As the son of writer Wyatt Cooper and heiress/blue jean magnate Gloria Vanderbilt, he was a child of privilege. At the same time, he was driven to find his own identity in light of deep personal tragedies, which by far, provide the most absorbing passages in his book.

His father died during open heart surgery at the age of fifty, and a decade later in 1988, his brother Carter jumped off the balcony of their mother's apartment. It was this senseless suicide that pushed Cooper to become a reporter, first with the youth-oriented Channel One and then ABC, traveling with his own video camera to dangerous regions of the world like Myanmar, Somalia, Bosnia and Rwanda. These passages are filled with vivid impressions of poverty, starvation and the personal impact of war. It becomes clear through Cooper's writing that he was seeking an escape from the personal pain he felt from his brother's premature death.

Ironically, the least interesting parts of the book have to do with his move to CNN. In spite of his sharp accounts about the Indian Ocean tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, especially expressive in his frustration with the minimal government support for the victims, he comes across a bit too pat and expeditious in his coverage of these events and the impact on him personally.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By RBSProds TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 1, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Five "Brilliant" Stars!! It's like Anderson Cooper started writing about what he found in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and his life literally began to seep through the pages: a brilliant, opportunistic, tragic, and ultimately triumphant life which is a tremendous 'focus lens' that he uses to view everything from distant wars to a rampaging Tsunami to Niger, to Hurricane Katrina. He touches on that life in the Introduction dropping us into his life at age 10 and intersperses "his" story around "their" stories throughout the remainder of the book.

I first encountered Anderson Cooper when he and Alison Stewart did the ABC late night news and those two kept alot of Americans up late as they chatted about and around the news. Even then you could tell those two were destined for great things: she's now doing "The Most" on MSNBC and Anderson is "the big news guy" replacing Aaron Brown on CNN's prime time news, called "Anderson Cooper 360". Now he's being paid the big bucks for stories that he once did for free as a correspondent with a fake press pass for the unsuspecting "Channel One".

I was surprised that what I expected to be exclusively about Hurricane Katrina became something so personal: about his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, and the tragedies of his father's and his brother's deaths. The fact that both mother and surviving son have successfully dealt with these tragedies has done nothing but made them strong and allowed them to move on. In reporting on Katrina, the Tsunami, Iraq, Niger, and the other locales, Anderson takes no prisoners in assessing the damage to lives and property. This is an engrossing, sometimes shocking, and truly informative personal memoir and investigative reporting. May Anderson Cooper find himself "never having to slow down, never having to land".
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