Journalists typically don’t like to write about themselves. It comes from years of writing in the third person and striving for objectivity. And with so many critics of the press, reporters assume no one likes them. Robert Timberg grapples with this issue in his moving memoir, Blue-Eyed Boy. After nearly 40 years as a journalist and three noteworthy books, perhaps he has a story to tell. But he also has self-doubts. Then he looks in the mirror and sees his disfigured face. It is an image he has been trying to forget since 1967, when as a young soldier in Vietnam, just days away from the end of his tour, he suffered third-degree burns from a land mine explosion. He finally decides to confront this defining moment of his life. “I want to remember how I decided not to die,” he writes. “To not let my future die.”

Journalism is a seductive profession. Each day is a new story. There is fame and notoriety. And it’s easy to lose oneself during long hours in the newsroom. Timberg did just that during a long stint at The Baltimore Sun. He wrote about the Iran-Contra Affair, penned books about Oliver North and John McCain, and destroyed two marriages along the way. He was able to forget about his disfigurement. Then in retirement, he had time to reflect. This was the catalyst for his fast-moving, crisply written memoir.

In Blue-Eyed Boy, Timberg at long last examines the physical and emotional pain he experienced, and how it shaped his life. He realizes that it motivated him to be the best at his profession. He also understands how his singular drive hurt some people along the way. Blue-Eyed Boy is a fascinating look at how a tragedy that would make most men crumble instead drove the author to survive, and on many levels, succeed.

 

This article was originally published in the August 2014 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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