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LOOKING FOR TROUBLE by Leslie Cockburn


One Woman, Six Wars, and a Revolution

by Leslie Cockburn

Pub Date: March 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-385-48319-8
Publisher: Anchor

A slightly better blend of Scoop and Dispatches than many memoirs by foreign correspondents. While in graduate school, and drawn by the idea of travel and adventure, Cockburn (Dangerous Liaison, 1991, etc.), now a contributing editor to Vanity Fair, joined the international bureau of NBC News. Still in her early 20s, it wasn't long before she was up to her neck in wars and disasters. Television news, especially international reporting, was still a macho fraternity, and Cockburn found herself in the uncomfortable but inspiriting role of pioneer. From Cambodia to Afghanistan, from Somalia to the Gulf War, usually behind the camera in the essential but undervalued role of producer, she has covered some of the last two decades' hottest spots. Along the way, she won a shelfful of prestigious awards and found time to have three children without most of the compromises faced by working women. For example, six months pregnant, she descended into the maelstrom of Somalia, her expanded stomach covered by an extra-large bullet-proof vest (until she discovered that Somali gunmen made a sport of testing the vests by deliberately shooting at their wearers). Cockburn never stayed very long in one place, jumping from story to story, six weeks here, a month there, just enough time to dig up a few scoops, work a new angle on an old story, and set up interviews and camera angles for the dancing-bear correspondent from New York who'd fly in for a few days to front her hard work. Because she's never in one place long enough to appreciate its true intricacies and shadings, much of her reportage here feels like intelligent tourism. She also has an off-putting flair for self-dramatization, making the moments of real danger seem oddly flat. Though the book is well crafted and full of incident, very little of it lingers long in memory. (Author tour)