Review: Journalist's memoir lacks personal insight

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Posted: Sep 08, 2014 2:52 PM
Review: Journalist's memoir lacks personal insight

"Foreign Correspondent: A Memoir" (Simon & Schuster), by H.D.S. Greenway

A memoir is defined as a written account in which someone describes past experiences. Longtime journalist David Greenway certainly does that in "Foreign Correspondent: A Memoir." Working for Time, The Washington Post and others, he covered nearly every significant historical conflict during the past half-century from Vietnam and Israel to Afghanistan and Iraq.

Greenway's book serves as an excellent primer to America's history of "intervening and fighting against people whose fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers fought against Europeans telling them what to do or what they want," he writes. And despite the inherent risks or perhaps because of them, it's also guaranteed to whet any budding, young journalist's desire to cover war in far-flung places.

What it fails to do, however, is offer readers much insight into Greenway himself. He's clearly passionate about his work. As he prepares to board a helicopter to escape Saigon, the door gunner tells him he's allowed only one bag — he's got two, his clothes and his typewriter. "Without hesitation I threw away my clothes," he writes. But the reader can almost hear him constantly reminding himself — as any good reporter should — to keep himself out of the story. He all-too-casually mentions or simply hints at what were likely major life events that certainly, from a reader's perspective, would have enhanced his memoir.

"I was suffering from a reoccurrence of a neck injury from a helicopter crash in Cambodia a few years before" or the "thwok, thwok, thwok of helicopters today brings back a bad feeling."

In the end, this lack of insight makes "Foreign Correspondent" less a memoir and more a modern history book.