A television journalist recounts his far-reaching adventures.
The title of this enjoyable memoir comes from Severson’s curious given name and distinctive place of origin, a tiny town in southern Utah. On looking back on his career as a correspondent for NBC News, the Discovery Channel, and PBS, he says, “I’ve met extraordinary people, mostly good, some bad, traveled five million miles, but I’m not sure I ever left Virgin. I don’t think it ever left me.” He characterizes his body of work as a function of his affinity for the underdog, a trait that he attributes to his mother, Odessa, aka “Queenie.” Loosely organized into sections such as “People & Their Issues,” “Religiosity & Justice,” “Issues that Drive Me Crazy,” and “Storytelling,” the text abounds with well-crafted one-liners. For example, recalling a conflict between a polygamous family and the Bureau of Land Management, Severson wryly comments, “The encounter only endeared them to Southern Utahns who hate the federal government a lot more than they dislike polygamy.” The author is quite open about his shortcomings and errors in judgment and strikes a self-deprecating tone as he covers a wide range of some famous, some infamous characters: Donald Trump, the Rat Pack, Evel Knievel, Ted Bundy, and the Dalai Lama, just to mention a few. Naturally, Severson’s assignments took him to some far-flung locations, like Savoonga, Alaska, where he fretted about an impending hunt (“I didn’t want to see anything get killed and certainly not a walrus that looks like a couple of my uncles”), and North Korea, which he describes as “both a prison and a kind of Disneyesque Magic Kingdom where nothing is real but no one is happy.” An appendix provides scripts from his broadcasts. The most interesting is an interview conducted with a voodoo priestess as they walked through a New Orleans cemetery on the Day of the Dead. Perhaps the only drawback lies in the unfortunate number of editing issues and careless misspellings (“imbreeding,” “ssquished,” etc.), but Severson nonetheless will easily win over the vast majority of readers with his good-natured humor and informal style.
Open-minded, droll reporting on the quirks of human behavior.