THE MARK by Jacques Leslie


A Memoir
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 A journalist's recollection of reporting in Vietnam--and its force in shaping his consciousness. ``I must have been the greenest reporter who ever set foot in Vietnam,'' declares former Los Angeles Times reporter Leslie, who arrived there in 1972, less than four years out of Yale. But his stint soon imprinted ``the mark''--a journalistic addiction to drama and righteous conflict that eventually helped him ``solve the mystery of my life.'' This is mostly a conventional, if interesting, recounting of war correspondence, written in numerous brief scenes. The young reporter experienced combat (he suffered a minor wound), battled with office-bound editors questioning his objectivity, and grew skeptical of bureaucratic pronouncements on American progress. Leslie offers some intriguing reflection on the murky process of trusting sources and the impossibility of conveying Vietnam's complexity to faraway readers. Intermittently, he inserts flashbacks from his past: During his joyless childhood in a solitary Beverly Hills family, he felt sympathy for ``voiceless sufferers,'' and only politics provoked real conversation between his parents. ``A loner who hated to be alone,'' he picked up prostitutes and dabbled in drugs in Vietnam. Along the way, Leslie learned some lessons: A refugee woman was offered $100 in exchange for having her picture taken. Although the money ``was more than the woman could hope to earn in a year,'' she refused because she considered it an invasion of her privacy. She remains Leslie's ``model of integrity.'' Expelled from South Vietnam for airing a local scandal, he went to Cambodia and eventually covered the American pullout. In a very brief epilogue, the author relates that he discovered Eastern philosophy, yoga, and therapy, began a family, and ultimately found a pattern in his path from troubled childhood to Indochinese epiphany. But until that late point, his personal trauma has been lost in long stretches of reporting; readers need more about his successful transformation. Good snapshots rather than a coherent moving picture. (12 pages photos, not seen) (Author tour)

Pub Date: March 16th, 1995
ISBN: 1-56858-024-6
Page count: 300pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1995