Dispatches from the Edge: A Memoir of War, Disasters, and Survival

Dispatches from the Edge: A Memoir of War, Disasters, and Survival

by Anderson Cooper


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061136689
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 05/08/2007
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 233,809
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.54(d)

About the Author

Anderson Cooper is the anchor of Anderson Cooper 360° on CNN and a correspondent for CBS’s 60 Minutes. He has won numerous journalism awards and nine Emmys, and his first book, Dispatches from the Edge, was a number one New York Times bestseller. He lives in New York City.

Read an Excerpt

Dispatches from the Edge

A Memoir of War, Disasters, and Survival
By Anderson Cooper

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Anderson Cooper
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0061132381

Chapter One


Washed Away

Small waves, one after the other, lap the shore. Two Sri Lankan villagers walk along the water's edge, searching for bodies washed up by the tide. They come every morning, leave without answers. Some days they find nothing. Today there's a torn shoe and a piece of broken fence.

I'm standing in a pile of rubble. Beneath me the ground seems to move, twisting and turning in on itself. It takes a moment for my eyes to adjust. The ground isn't moving at all. It's maggots, thousands of them. Writhing, squirming, they feast on some unseen flesh. Nearby, a dog with low-hanging teats and a face smeared with blood scavenges for scraps. She steps carefully among scattered bricks, tourist snapshots, china plates, the flotsam and jetsam of life before the wave.

It took centuries for the pressure to build. Subtle shifts, grinding force. Long ago, a thousand miles east of Sri Lanka, more than fifteen miles below the surface of the Indian Ocean, two gigantic shelves of rock, tectonic plates, pressed against each other -- the rim of what scientists call the India Plate began to push underneath the Burma Plate. Something had to give. At nearlyone minute before 8:00 A.M., the morning after Christmas, 2004, the force of the compression explodes along a section of rock some one hundred miles off the west coast of Sumatra. A fault line more than seven hundred miles long violently rips open and a shelf of rock and sediment thrusts upward fifty feet, unleashing an explosion of energy so powerful it alters the rotation of the earth. It is one of the strongest earthquakes in recorded history.

Shock waves pulse in all directions, displacing millions of tons of water, creating giant undersea waves. A tsunami. A ship on the surface of the sea would barely have noticed, detecting perhaps some slight swells no more than two feet high. But underneath, out of sight, churning walls of water extend from the ocean's bottom to the surface, pushing outward. The water moves fast, five hundred miles per hour -- the speed of a commercial jetliner.

It takes eight minutes after the earthquake begins for the sonic signals to reach the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, in Hawaii. The thin needle of a seismograph suddenly springs to life, rapidly scribbling side to side, signaling an alarm. It's already too late. Eight minutes later, at approximately 8:15 A.M., in Banda Aceh, Sumatra, the first of several massive walls of water explodes onto shore. In the next two hours, tsunami waves strike ten other countries. More than two hundred thousand people will die.

In New York, 2005 begins in a blizzard. A hurricane of confetti and light. At the stroke of midnight, I'm standing on a platform in the center of Times Square. I'm about sixty feet off the ground, and below, on the streets all around me, are people -- hundreds of thousands of revelers packed shoulder to shoulder behind barricades set up by police. The crowd is cheering. I see their mouths are open, their hands waving in the air, but I can't hear them. Both my ears are plugged with wireless headphones connecting me to a control room several blocks away. I hear only the hiss of the satellite transmission and a thin pulse of blood throbbing in my ears.

It's a strange way to start 2005. We've been covering the tsunami around the clock this week, and each day brings new details, new horrors. There's been talk of canceling the celebrations, but in the end it's decided that the show will go on.

I've always hated New Year's Eve. When I was ten, I lay on the floor of my room with my brother, watching on TV as the crowd in Times Square counted down the remaining seconds of 1977. My father was in the intensive care unit at New York Hospital. He'd had a series of heart attacks, and in a few days would undergo bypass surgery. My brother and I were terrified, but too scared to speak with each other about it. We watched, silent, numb, as the giant crystal ball made its slow descent. It all seemed so frightening: the screaming crowds, the frigid air, not knowing if our father would live through the new year.

I grew up in New York but never went to see the ball drop until I volunteered to cover it for CNN. For most New Yorkers, the idea of going anywhere near Times Square on New Year's Eve is inconceivable. It's like eating at Tavern On The Green; the food may be tasty, but it's best left to out-of-towners.

I've always thought that New Year's Eve is proof that human beings are essentially optimistic creatures. Despite hundreds of years of pathetic parties and hellish hangovers, we continue to cling to the notion that it's possible to have fun on that night. It's not. There's too much pressure, too many expectations, too few bathrooms.

The truth is, I began volunteering to work on New Year's Eve as a way to avoid having to do something social. This is my second time covering the Times Square festivities, and I've actually begun to enjoy it. There aren't many opportunities in this city to feel part of a community. We scuttle about the streets each day, individual atoms occasionally running into one another but rarely coalescing to form a whole. In Times Square, however, as the ball descends and the crowd cheers, New York becomes a very different place, a place of pure feeling.

When midnight arrives, the air explodes into a solid mass, a swirl of colored confetti that seems to hang suspended in space. For several minutes I am not expected to say anything. The pictures take over. The cameras pan the streets, wide shots and close-ups; people sing and shout. I take the headphones out of my ears and am surrounded by the waves of sound. The air seems to shake, and for . . .


Excerpted from Dispatches from the Edge by Anderson Cooper Copyright © 2006 by Anderson Cooper. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Dispatches from the Edge 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 124 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I couldn't put this book down. There was many a sleepless night trying to read this book. Anderson Cooper is a fabulous anchor and reporter from CNN and CBS and this book is just another one to add to his many accomplishments. It's well written and you feel either like you sitting right there like he's telling you his stories or like you're experiencing them with him. It's also a nice open up to his more personal side without going too far. I feel like I know my favorite reporter better and this book makes me love him even more. Good job Anderson!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book in about 3 days, I litterally could not put it down. While some might say the content is depressing and a bit of a 'downer' I find it refreshing that someone in the public eye can be so candid, and honsetly there were many passages that I related to 100% I think his story challenged the reader to step out of their comfort zones and acknowledge that the world is so much bigger than the little boxes we choose to stay in.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Was well written, very honest and showed great insight into death, suicide, and the difficulty dealing with the harsh world we live in today.
Carol-Ann-3 More than 1 year ago
I have not written a book review in over 60 yrs. Reading this book made me realize that the "non fiction " world is wide open. That is my goal. Thank you Anderson Cooper. Carolyn McM
Jeneveve More than 1 year ago
Brilliantly written, impossible to put down, emotional and honest.... I strongly recommend this book. I remember watching Anderson on Channel One News and continue to admire his work on CNN. This book strengthened my respect for him and his work.
LadyLit06 More than 1 year ago
To be honest this genre isn't my usual cup of tea, but I am a fan of his show so I picked it up anyways. I'm so glad I did because once I started reading, I couldn't put it down. It was interesting to see these natural disasters and war torn countries from his perspective, without the censorship of a video camera. The way he weaves stories of his personal life into his professional experiences makes for an emotionally gripping biography. We all deal with death differently, and I don't think it was depressing at all, just insightful.
lynnmellw on LibraryThing 10 months ago
This is a collection of remembrances from CNN reporter Anderson Cooper. He uses an interesting technique of weaving his own personal family traumas with his experiences on location reporting on disasters. I particularly enjoyed his recounting of the Katrina disaster, as the reader really experiences his outrage at the government inaction in both Mississippi and New Orleans. It was particularly interesting to read about the recent news events from his perspective, as one can remember seeing Anderson on camera in those same locations.
kellanelizabeth on LibraryThing 10 months ago
Cooper's personal story is interesting enough, but it's poorly woven here with details about his professional life. Nice try.On the other hand, however, it does have pictures of Cooper's beautiful self.
perpstu on LibraryThing 10 months ago
This book provided an inside look into what makes Anderson such a great journalist. The events that shaped his drive are sad and amazing at the same time. Although he grew up in a wealthy family, he really struggled to make a name for himself as a field journalist. Reading this book made me respect him even more than I hade before.
macii on LibraryThing 10 months ago
I decided to read this book after I saw his interview on Opera.It's been awhile since I've read it and my mom has my copy of the book, so I can't give you a more detailed description. I can tell you that this is a worthwhile read. He really opened my eyes to the atrocities that take place in the world. He described some pretty terrible things that happened. One that sticks out the most to me is his description of the look of drowning victims of the Tsunami and how solitary and terrifying drowning is. The description still sticks in my mind . . . I pray that I don't die that way-and what a horror it must have been when God flooded the earth.Dispatches from the Edge didn't leave me feeling dismal, but it did have me really wrestle with the bad things in the world and praise God that I have hope in Christ. This also inspired me to keep up-to-date with what is going on in the world. I want a globe. I've reasearched and kept up with what is happening in Darfur. I also know that I want to raise my children to know where places in the world are located.Do you know where Kashmir is located?It may be worth taking a look and you won't be wasting your time if you pick up this book.
abbylibrarian on LibraryThing 10 months ago
Cooper's book takes a look back at some of the events he has reported on, from starvation in Somalia to the fighting in Sarajevo to Hurricane Katrina. Though the memoir shies away from any current personal information, he examines his childhood and how the tragedies he endured growing up have influenced his career choices. This is not a book for the faint of heart (there are many graphic descriptions of the violence and suffering he has witnessed), but for those interested in recent events, it's a good choice. Cooper narrates his own words which really brings his story to life.
bettyjo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Listened to the audio read by Anderson Cooper. What a great story he put together. Keep up the good work.
adelate on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is AMAZING. I cannot recommend it highly enough. I didn't know much about it, other than what a friend of mine had told me, but I was intrigued. Looking at the subject of the book, I wasn't at all sure if I would be able to finish it - the books I normally read tend to be fiction; romance, fantasy and young adult novels, and this was everything but.I picked it up, having no intention to start reading it then but just to see what it was like.The next thing I knew, I was on page sixty, having gotten completely hooked on the book.The book is a weird experience in the sense that you learn so much about Anderson and at the same time he eludes you completely. He's honest and candid, and it seems like he doesn't try to make himself seem any better a person than he is. Through all the wars and disasters he's seen he seems connected to the world in a way that I could never be without probably going insane, but at the same time disconnected from everything as well, because of his loss in both his father and brother. He likens himself to a shark in that he needs to stay moving in order to stay alive.At times it was even painful to read, because there was a feeling to me like he doesn't really have anything to lose. Towards the end the feeling eases, like there's hope and healing.I'm not sure if any of this made any sense, because what this book did to me is it left my head and heart full of thoughts and feelings that are just completely mixed up in each other. The book will definitely stay with me for a long long time, and it'll be the book I'll recommend to everyone.
Amazon_books on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have been following Anderson Cooper since the early 90's when he was a foreign correspondant for Channel One. I really like the man and his journalistic sense. His stories are real and human. The cover of his book states that it is a memoir of war, disaster and survival and I was under the impression it would have been about just that. Every other chapter delves into his private life. Why would he think anyone would buy his book just to hear him whine?While I am sorry that he had to deal with the tragedies in his life, so does every other person. He just gets paid for it is all. I was not impressed. It would have been much better if he had given maybe a chapter in the beginning on his personal life and the rest to the wars he covered.
fvbeaudry on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm fascinated by what makes people tick. With Anderson Cooper, I have been interested in what drove him to spend almost his whole career in the most desolate, war-torn areas of the world, particuarly after growing up in relative affluence. With this memoir, we get a lot closer to an answer. Cooper describes shutting off his emotions at a fairly young age (10) after the loss of his beloved father, and how that was cemented after the loss of his brother to suicide. The early years of his career in Bosnia and Somalia appear to be both an attempt to escape the pain, but also an attempt to reawaken some of those emotions. He describes self-loathing, as he begins to lose sight of the fact that he's documenting the slaughter of people, rather than simply subjects for his reports. Still, as much as he's willing to share this emptiness, this part of himself that is troubling to him (and to us), he still doesn't let us get close to the rest of him. He documents in vivid detail the images of death he sees in all these places, but he only hints at having difficulty dealing with social situations, being less than available to his friends and loved ones. He describes how his time covering Hurricane Katrina finally started to crack that diamond-like shell covering his emotions, but he never takes the final step of revealing who he's become as a result. At 38, his journey is far from over, so perhaps his intent was only to document what brought him here to this moment, saving the rest of the story for some future work. I'm still curious, so I'm hoping that someday he trusts us (and maybe himself) enough to finish the story.
disenchanted on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I found this to be an "enjoyable" book even though the material was rather depressing. It was a very quick read, but engaging. I have developed a new respect for Anderson Cooper.
creyola on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Anderson Cooper has put together a fascinating and moving memoir. The book flips back and forth in time and between countries he has travelled to and stories he covered as a reporter. I found his passion for his career inspiring. The retelling of events in war-torn countries can be quite opressive. It becomes easy to let your mind skip over the words "corpses" and "bodies" if you are not careful to remember that these were real events and each one deserves a fresh emotion. Cooper peppers the novel with stories of his own struggles to come to terms with his father's death and his brother's suicide. I truly appreciate the honest (and what must have been difficult) confession of emotions from Cooper. Everyone should read this book, if only that it might serve as a reminder of people in the world who are less fortunate and are suffering daily.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I can't get enough of Anderson Cooper
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very raw and honest. The conversation was very touching. I cried at the end.
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I think it's safe to say that Anderson Cooper can write as well as newscast. I found this book in the library and did not look up until I had finished it. The subject matter was interesting, even if the time bounced around a lot. However, even though I liked the writing, the tense changed a lot, which I was not such a fan of. While Anderson has discussed the deaths of his father and brother on his talk show, this book definitely gave a more quiet, personal side to his feelings. I did notice the lack of inclusion of 9/11. Anderson has frequently stated that 9/11 was the reason he went beck to being a war correspondant, so I wondered why it wasn't at least mentioned. But I understand why it was not a bigger part of the book. The stories in the memoir were of things he had witnessed, and I don't think Anderson covered much news about 9/11. Also, it is highly plausible that 9/11 did not have a large effect on Anderson. I lived in Brooklyn at the time, and although 9/11 was horrifying, I was not affected much. All in all, I enjoyed this memoir and would recommend it.
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