James Fenton is the right man in the wrong place in dangerous times. This journalist, poet, and critic is almost always at the center of a revolution. Fenton was one of the last journalists in Saigon, and his reporting from the abandoned American embassy, “where the looting had just begun,” is unlike any Vietnam coverage you’ve ever read. “Some people gave me suspicious looks; I was after all the only one there with a white faceso I began to do a little looting myself . . . .Two things I could not take were reproduction of an 1873 map of Hanoi and a framed quotation by Lawrence of Arabia, which read ‘Better to let them do it imperfectly than do it perfectly yourself, for it is their country, their way, and your time is short.’”
Reporting from war-ravaged Cambodia, Fenton lived for a while in a monastery, where the monks, certain he was a CIA agent, were fixated with his bout of constipation. In “The Snap Revolution,” Fenton chronicles Corazon Aquino's assumption of power in the Philippines, from a vantage point so close “I could even tell you what perfume Imelda Marcos was wearing.” Fenton's most recent posting is Korea, where he reports, in his inimitable fashion, on the recent riots and election in that complex country on the brink of civil convulsion. All the Wrong Places is a visceral and unforgettable view from the Pacific Rim.
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Invents a new school of journalism, the Crepuscular School, based on the observation that people tell you more after dark. When I was stalking the revolutions of Southeast Asia, I certainly found that to be true. Revealing without being self-important.