Thursday, January 2, 2014

Under the Wire: Marie Colvin's Final Assignment

by Paul Conroy
Weinstein Books,  2013
326 pages     Nonfiction
The Shortlist

We think that we know what reporters and photojournalists do because we see them on television. Paul Conroy, a war photographer, documents the year he spent working with his friend, the journalist, Marie Colvin. We know who she is--the journalist with the eye patch who died covering the war in Syria in 2012. What Under the Wire documents is what we don't know--the danger, the fear, the desperation, and the camaraderie that reporters and photographers experience as they try to get the story out to those of us who follow the war stories from the warmth of our homes.

 Here is how Conroy begins chapter 11:
"I lay amid the rubble and dust next to the bodies of Marie and Remi. The immediate fear and chaos of the attack had passed but I felt neither grief nor sorrow. How could I possibly be devoid of any feeling, either physical or mental? i briefly wondered whether I might be dying, a thought I dismissed almost as soon as it entered my mind. Then it hit me. Huge waves of guilt surged through my body and the sheer intensity of the emotion made me freeze. My
 friends were dead yet I didn't feel anything. I wanted to cry but no tears came."

Under the Wire is a very clearly written, compelling depiction of the crazy danger of reporting from a war zone. I cannot fathom working in this environment nor can I understand why someone chooses this career path. I once knew a pianist who had been a child prodigy in the 1940s and the darling of New York society. When she grew up, her celebrity depleted, she became a war correspondent for the Vietnam war and died when her helicopter was shot down. Her name was Phillipa Schuyler, and she was one of the only women reporters killed in the Vietnam War. Maria Colvin is one of the only women reporters of this generation killed while reporting on war. Reading Under the Wire helped me understand  why Phillipa would have chosen that career and why she risked her life. 

One reader expressed the view on Goodreads that Under the Wire is "possibly the finest account of war of this generation and is comparable to Michael Herr's landmark Dispatches on Vietnam in the 1970s."

Here are a couple of other reviews of the book. I received my copy from the publicists.

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