Okay, I’m a total sucker for journalism books. Always have been. The Year of Living Dangerously, The Quiet American, River of Time, Salvador, Night Letters, Rum Diary, etc. Sucker. Total sucker. Might as well add Anjan Sundaram’s “Stringer” to the list. (Just remembered, Ward Just had a book titled Stringer, also good.)
Congo. To Americans, mostly just “over there.” War, famine, corruption, and move on. Time to get back to the Home Shopping Network or Instagram. Too much effort learning about the shifting borders of Central Africa. The DRC, however, is a fascinating place with a fascinating history, if you care about things like this. I do. In fact, I have friends who live in DRC.
Sundaram is not your average wire service journalist, at least in my experience. He writes for AP and for the NYT but his background was in math not journalism. A one-way ticket to the Congo changed all that right quick. Sink or swim. He swam but not before enduring what a place like the Congo can dish out. (PS: I worked for AP, Reuters and AFP at one time or another but never in Africa.)
This book is beautifully written. In fact, it is far too good to have wire service near it. There are talented folks working for the wires, for sure, both with words and pictures, but overall their style isn’t known for beauty. Wires are mostly nuts and bolts. This book is not.
This book makes you want to go and makes you want to write. Describe your surroundings while bouncing in and out of history, family while the dirty real world tries to suck the life from you.
Get it, read it.