Non-Fiction: Memoir

Borrowed Emotions

A Review of Dispatches From the Edge by Anderson Cooper

By Lyla Peress

            Anderson Cooper’s Dispatches From the Edge is really more than a book.  It’s a catalogue of raw emotions.  Cooper really takes his readers into his experiences and the major events of the past few years.  His time in war zones and disaster areas makes his words stick to you as if you had seen all the horrors he had.  In a world where serious journalism is dying and turning into a shallow business of entertainment and avoiding the reality of situations, Cooper is not limited by the influence of politicians and TV networks. 

            The book is divided into sections according to events and places he has covered and the sections are in collections of articles.  The book drifts from memories of Cooper’s father and brother to his past and present experience as a journalist.  It doesn’t exactly start from the past but always refers back to it and treats the more current events as soon to be history.  Cooper concerns himself with feeling and remembering.  And we should remember too. 

            The most moving perhaps is the closeness he feels to the victims of Katrina.  He predicts the nation moving on and forgetting, but preserves the moments and sore spots caused by not just the storm but the people who did and didn’t help through his story and theirs.  It is indeed a shared story both of Cooper and of the many dying and desperate all around.

            Anderson Cooper searches for meaning and feeling since the death of his father and suicide of his brother.  He deals with these tragedies by immersing himself in far worse ones, hoping to expose pieces of himself in the stories of families separated by the Tsunami, starvation in Africa, the soldiers and people in Iraq and, most closely, in the flood-waters of Katrina.  More than that, he says something about the issues of the world.  The serious problems of humans neglected are forced to light through individual stories.  The dying children in Niger stand in for the many starving all over Africa and other “third world” countries.  The separated Bane family and New Orleans French Quarter police are just part of the many destroyed and shaken by Hurricane Katrina.

            No, to call it just a book wouldn’t do it justice.  It is hard to explain the feeling and connection you develop to the writer and the events.  Cooper achieves this connection, speaking directly to the hearts of the readers from his own.  It’s hard not to care about him and what he has to say.     


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