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Dispatches from the Edge: A Memoir of War, Disasters, and Survival Paperback – May 8, 2007

4.6 out of 5 stars 362 customer reviews

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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Most listeners will already be familiar with Anderson Cooper's dangerous field reporting on CNN. While this autobiography is heavy with those tales of wars and natural disasters, it is also rife with a surprising number of very personal incidents and revelations. His straightforward reading of his on-camera adventures is clear and engaging. But what keeps this reading from being great is his detachment. Perhaps because he has spent his professional life trying to be objective in his role as a journalist (although it could be argued that he became a media star when that facade cracked during his coverage of Hurricane Katrina) the more personal bits of the book are spoken with a level of distance that doesn't quite match up with the subject matter, especially when dealing with such delicate personal issues as his feelings concerning the suicide of his brother. Anderson is a sensational writer and reporter, but this mixture of public and private dispatches would have more power if he'd let his professional persona slip more.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (May 8, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061136689
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061451515
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (362 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #37,638 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Hardcover
This is the story of how a little boy's heart broke, so that he decided to bury the pain deep within. Little did he know that you cannot bury one feeling without burying most others as well. Carrying this well of pent-up emotions, feeling cut off, he spent years going to the worse places on earth, hoping to learn how other people dealt with overwhelming pain, and how they survived it. He frantically ran away from his internal demons by facing death and loss in their worse forms, and only the most extreme conditions made him feel alive.

In 2005, the dam finally broke. The long denied pain came seeping out, then rushing out, and the man finally reconnected with his emotions and himself, in an excruciating but life-saving hurricane of grief.

Anderson is very candid in giving us access to the pain he kept repressing. He explains how he had compartmentalized his life in order to handle it. But the truth is, we can't help but feel he has opened but one compartment in this book. The box "loss, death and grief" is generously shared. But it is not enough because we guess there is a lot more to Anderson than what is revealed there. We never get a sense of who he really is, what makes him get up in the morning, what he loves and hates. This book is a splendid display of opening up while at the same time keeping a huge part hidden. And Anderson fails to ever rise high above his experiences in order to view them in an all-encompassing perspective. Perhaps it is because, as he says, "he doesn't wear his opinions on his sleeve", but what better place than this book to have and express one's opinions? If he has developed mottos, convictions, a philosophy of life, after all he has seen, he doesn't really share them.
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