I know I know, you guys haven’t heard of me nor read me for a while (11 months?! Phew!). Anyway, let’s just say that I’ve been busy, dealing with loads of things and issues. During that “sabbatical leave”, I also figured out that my eyes (and glasses) are good for one thing: reading books. From now on, I will only be publishing book reviews (Those interested in that box thingy, I’m sure any other of my colleagues will satisfy your envy). So, I’m back today with a book I read for you (although you gonna have to read it for yourselves as well): PICARO, a memoir by Jeff B. Harmon. The latter was born in December 31, 1953. He is an American film director, writer and producer. He is also an actor, photographer and song writer. He was also a journalist and a war correspondent. With this book, Jeff B. Harmon establishes a written account of his own life and of events in which he took part (like… a memoir, you know), with a special emphasis on his role as a war correspondent. A short overview…
Picaro is a mischievous and troublesome journalist who wanders the world looking for truth and adventure. He is most importantly driven by adventure and his attraction to danger and death. He even escaped punishment and death on several occasions along his journey in quest of thrilling experiences. Right from the beginning, one could easily sense that Harmon was a special kid. At the age of 08, he was already able not only to read through his parents like a book, but also to fully grasp the kind of family crisis that surrounded him and eventually led to his parents’ divorce. Just read this:
“I am eight years old and aware that both my mother and father are completely mad. Their craziness is distinctly different; their only common ground is total self-absorption. Beverly, my mother, has the emotional stability of a six-year-old. Larry, my father, is a pathological liar who teeters the edge of megalomania” (Chapter 2. Madness at Fortress Beverly, 2014, p.17).
The kid though raised in instability, will be driven by the same instability in his adult life. As a war correspondent, he infiltrated the Nazi underground in Paraguay and a right-wing death squad in El Salvador. He also covered El Salvador’s civil war; Emperor Bokassa’s bloodstained reign and the fall of Uganda’s murderous dictator, Idi Amin. He covered the Soviet-Afghan war which resulted in the production of films accounting that war from three different perspectives: the mujahideen, the Soviet armed forces and an independent warlord. He also gave a brief account of Saddam’s Iraq in his memoir. You should definitely get this book and read it as I’m not feeding you guys with details. I’m not a spoiler (not today, not anymore!). Here comes my review…
One of the book’s main assets is that he constitutes an informative peace of reading. As I went through the pages of this book, I did not only learn a lot about places and people I barely knew about before, but I also found in it key multi-faceted and non-ideological historical accounts of some of the instabilities the globe had known. Jeff B. Harmon also offered a non-censored and honest report of his meetings with psychopaths and warlords he built connection with during his various wanderings. What is furthermore striking is that the dude never judges nor comments on madmen and executioners’ behaviours and actions. He chats with them, lives with them, learns to know them, understands them and kills with/for them. Harmon is simply the kind of guy that would make any other war correspondent feel ashamed. Indeed, he is afraid of nothing (or hardly shows it anyway) and he is attracted by danger unlike other correspondents who would certainly offer coverage from some safe points and be judgemental or ideology-driven at it. Harmon’s attraction to danger surely has no limit. Did I mention earlier that he is gay?! Right, he is gay and doesn’t really work hard at hiding himself in the most dangerous places of the world. He just engages himself in sexual adventures in the most homophobic places on earth without any second thought. He is also someone who can get himself involved into non-ethical activities.
Another one of PICARO’s positive trait is its entertaining and funny feature. At first, I didn’t believe I was reading a memoir. I really thought I was reading some very comic novel. However, the whole thing was just non-fictional and actually accounting about war and instability. I’m definitely a monster as I found myself laughing out loud on several occasions while reading this book. My only regret is that I did find it a lot more interesting, funny and entertaining when Harmon was a kid. The writing lost a bit of his ‘magical’ feature as the main character grew up.
I would nonetheless rate it a big 09/10. You should get it, read it and share your rating and view on this with me. I got it for free on Amazon Kindle. Go get yourselves a copy as well. It’s just about 390 pages. That’s not a lot, is it?!