ALL THE WRONG PLACES: A drift in the Politics of the Pacific Rim by James Fenton

ALL THE WRONG PLACES: A drift in the Politics of the Pacific Rim

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Tough-guy, gritty prose about such grim and fascinating events as the fall of Saigon, the fall of the Marcoses, and, most recently, the political unrest in South Korea. Fenton, a longtime left-leaning journalist and poet, published the bulk of these essays in the British quarterly Granta. Blessed by this ""elastic magazine, in which content can determine new forms,"" Fenton was able to get back, he felt, to real reporting such as ""those 'narratives' of previous centuries, which often found publication as pamphlets or in magazines."" His style is all those things ""good"" reporting isn't supposed to be: anecdotal, digressive, subjective, polemical; but because Fenton knows how to break the rules, it is also enormously successful. He doesn't bother to cloak his cantankerous personality, because he isn't trying to persuade anyone that he is viewing a revolution objectively: ""I had the illusion that I was honest, and in many ways I was. What I could not see in myself, but what I realize now is so prevalent on the Left, is tile corrupting effect of political opportunism. . .And how much more opportunistic can you get than to hitch a ride on the winning tank, just a few yards before the palace gates?"" There are less serious moments in his reporting: he interrupts a description of a tense drive through hostile territory in Vietnam to recount the Mont-agnard method of mending a cracked gas tank with a kneaded bar of soap. He interrupts his exploration of Marcos' palace to grab one of lmelda's monogrammed towels and to play Bach's prelude in C on the grand piano. None of these digressions or gags limits the depth of Fenton's coverage of three very different, but equally important, revolutions in Vietnam, the Philippines, and Korea. Vivid and intelligent reporting.

Pub Date: Oct. 26th, 1988
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly--dist. by Little, Brown