I was ambiguous on whether I would leave my boyfriend for an affair with Anderson Cooper or not. There are two people on the list, Michael Ondaatje and then another man whom I know too well to list publicly, but also an older male writer. Anderson is only ten years older than myself, and my o my, what an attractively angst ridden man he is. His book, Dispatches from the Edge: A Memoir of War, Disasters and Survival, throws out a challenge to all women by stating on page 35, that “I had never broken up with someone I was in love with, and I didn’t appreciate the pain of such a loss”, or on page 46, “Everyone could have seen that, like a broken locket, I had only half a heart”. It makes me want him…bad. To be the woman to break through that tough exterior where surely, surely the reporter of Hurricane Katrina, the sensitive, thoughtful, good looking and smolderingly sexy (rich to boot) man lies. After finishing his book though, I decided it wasn’t worth it. Too much baggage and I am still trying to check mine in.
Besides peppering his book and making connections (valid but scarce ones) with his personal life, Cooper takes us on a very straightforward, no frills, plenty of thrills, no theory journey of his reporting life. As a humanitarian, who does feel that journalists are not necessarily the enemy just supremely lazy and arrogant when it comes to covering stories, I felt that Cooper is refreshingly self aware but I am still not sure why he wrote the book. The obvious answer is to tell us his story. To tell us about his adventures and why he loves roaming the planet in search for the next complex emergency, famine, war. Yawn. He says towards the end of the book that he wrote the first draft on vacation (he loathes vacations and is always rushing off since he needs to be in perpetual motion to stop himself from succumbing to his inner pain). He alludes to writing it in ten days. It reads like that as well.
I refuse to believe when we have writers like Philip Gourevitch out there writing books like We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda, that we will publish Anderson Cooper’s book, an incomplete journey/reflection of why those of us who do live off the misery of others, choose to do so. Also, I hate to tell you this Mr. Cooper, but you are not the first one to think it is funny or wry that you live of the misery of others and, I have had no suicides or death of a parent or world famous mother, and yet, I choose a similar career to yours and in fact my dear, I live it for more than the maximum of a month you might spend there. Journalists and humanitarians, as much as we might hate each other, understand each other best. I like you and think you are a good journalist. I just wish you had put more thought into your book and really delved into and answered the fundamental question of why you do what you do. Selfish of me, but that is what I am trying to figure out for myself.
We are running from something and there is a numbness to our lives, which is why we like perpetual motion, so that we don’t succumb to the nothingness that is out there. This is alluded to in the book but never really looked at or a connection made to what he sees out there. It is there in the eyes of the people we meet and work with. I too was in Sri Lanka after the tsunami and in fact started work right by the train crash that Cooper mentions and like the journalists I met, he went in, saw what he wanted to see (mangled train reminding us of mangled bodies, tragedy and the triumph of the human spirit) but there is no mention at all of what lies underneath this all. He writes in fragments that are smacking of post colonial, adventure tourism, which is something I am constantly trying to reconcile for myself in my work.
I expected more from such a good-looking Yale graduate. He is a journalist though, so perhaps I should not have. Pity. I think an affair might have been fun. My first one night stand will just have to wait till Ondaatje finds me.