News & Politics


“Self-involved” author made sympathetic by “blunt, witty style.”

When Kogan, a Potomac native, landed her second assignment as a photojournalist, her French lover abandoned her on the border of Pakistan, and she had to find a group of Afghani freedom fighters who would take her—a lone woman—into the heart of the Hindu Kush mountains to photograph the Soviet pullout. Along the trail, she picked up dysentery and saw a soldier get his leg blown off by a land mine as he escorted her to the loo.

Anyone else might have packed up and headed home. Not Kogan—she stayed through several unpredictable lovers and assignments photographing illegal rhino-hunters in Zimbabwe, junkies in Switzerland, an orphanage in Romania, and an attempted coup in the USSR.

Kogan—along with her search for thrills, sex, and war zones—is at the center of this self-involved book. But her blunt, witty style and the degree to which she lays bare her mistakes make her a sympathetic character. I found myself pulling for her even as she landed in danger again and again through her bravado and fresh-out-of-Harvard naiveté. Whether in the wilds of Africa or between the sheets, she’s rash, often foolish, but never dull.

The story sputters toward the end when she meets the man of her dreams, marries and has kids, and settles into a job in Manhattan. When she waxes poetic on the joys of parenthood, I’m glad she’s happy, but the days she spent “hooked on fresh blood and the high of survival, on the headlines, the deadlines, and the steamy après deadlines” make a better story.

Deborah Copaken Kogan