Leslie, Jacques (Robert, Jr.) 1947-
LESLIE, Jacques (Robert, Jr.) 1947-
PERSONAL: Born March 12, 1947 in Los Angeles, CA; son of Jacques Robert and Aleen (Wetstein) Leslie; married Leslie Wernick, June 21, 1980; children: Sarah Alexandra. Education: Yale University, B.A., 1968.
ADDRESSES: Home—124 Reed St., Mill Valley, CA 94941. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Writer. Washington Post, Washington, DC, summer intern, 1967; New Asia College, Chinese University, Hong Kong, teacher, 1968-70; Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles, CA, foreign correspondent, 1971-1977; freelance journalist and writer, 1977—.
AWARDS, HONORS: Pulitzer Prize nominations, 1973, 1975, for work on Los Angeles Times; Distinguished Service Award, Sigma Delta Chi, 1973, for best newspaper foreign correspondence; Overseas Press Club citation, 1973; Top Censored Books of 1995 designation, Project Censored Yearbook, 1996, for The Mark: A War Correspondent's Memoir of Vietnam and Cambodia; grant for creative nonfiction, Marin, California, Arts Council, 1999; John B. Oakes Award in Distinguished Environmental Journalism finalist, 2001, and Best American Science Writing, Ecco Press, 2001, both for "Running Dry: What Happens When the World No Longer Has Enough Freshwater?;" Work-in-Progress Award, J. Anthony Lukas, 2002, for Deep Water.
The Mark: A War Correspondent's Memoir of Vietnam and Cambodia, Four Walls Eight Windows (New York, NY), 1995.
Work reprinted in The Best American Science Writing 2001, Ecco Press, 2001. Contributing writer, Wired magazine, 1993—; contributor to periodicals and newspapers, including Atlantic Monthly, New York Times Magazine, Harper's, Reader's Digest, Newsweek, Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, and Washington Post.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Deep Water, a book of narrative nonfiction about rivers and dams, to be published in 2004 by Farrar, Straus.
SIDELIGHTS: Jacques Leslie's writing first drew attention in 1973, when he became the first American journalist to enter and return from Viet Cong territory in war-torn South Vietnam. After surviving six years as a foreign correspondent, he resigned in 1977 to delve more deeply into the subjects he had explored as a journalist.
The first fruit of that effort was The Mark: A War Correspondent's Memoir of Vietnam and Cambodia, which solidified Leslie's already-solid reputation as a writer. At age twenty-four he landed an assignment most journalists of his era envied: Indochina during the Vietnam War. His experience touched him so deeply that he felt the need to record it, and readers are spared nothing as they experience the war along with Leslie. "The Mark," as Leslie defines it, is his (and others') need to be in Vietnam during the war, to immerse himself in the chaos, to be in the midst of the horror. So engulfed in the madness was he that he remained in Phnom Penh until the final flight out embarked. One might expect that anyone who endured such experiences as Leslie would write a memoir too heavy under the weight of angst and despair. Not so, said New York Observer columnist Ron Rosenbaum. "[Leslie] seems to have worked his way through complexity, not to simplicity but to a remarkable lucidity. He's produced a nearly pure narrative of wide-eyed clarity purged of ostentatious soul-searching, geopolitical theorizing and apocalyptic special effects—we've all had that before." The critic concluded that The Mark "reads almost like a coming-ofage novel, albeit a coming of age in hell."
Reviewer Timothy E. Trask felt the book is, at times, too personal. Writing on the Scholar Web site, he observed that "one gets the idea, reading The Mark, that both the Vietnam and Cambodian wars were fought for Jacques Leslie's personal development. . . . We never really get out of that zone inside Mr. Leslie's head." Washington Post Book World reviewer Jeff Stein likewise found the personal account more self-absorbed than absorbing: "I raced through The Mark hoping for an epiphany, a moment when, 20 years later, Leslie realizes how much he lost by obsessing over winning a Pulitzer instead of learning something important from the people on whose behalf we were allegedly fighting." Trask, however, acknowledged the value of The Mark. "I found the book to be fascinating, despite being at times annoyed by some of Mr. Leslie's personal revelations. . . . The Mark is a worthwhile addition to studies of journalism in the seventies."
Leslie has more recently focused his attention on the environment. Harper's magazine made his article "Running Dry: What Happens When the World No Longer Has Enough Freshwater?" its cover story in 2000, and Leslie's efforts were rewarded when the piece was included Ecco Press's The Best American Science Writing of 2001. Explained Leslie on his Web site, "I'd finally found the marriage of voice, style, and subject I'd been seeking. The topic was a slice of what I take to be the great looming story of the twenty-first century, the unraveling of the global environment."
"Running Dry" became the starting point for Leslie's Deep Water, which follows an Indian anti-dam activist, an American anthropologist, and an Australian river basin manager as they deal with the social and environmental impacts of large dams.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, March 1, 1995, John Mort, review of TheMark: A Correspondent's Memoir of Vietnam and Cambodia, p. 1177.
Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 1995, review of The Mark, p. 57.
New York Observer, February 13, 1995, Ron Rosen-baum, "The Edgy Enthusiast."
Publishers Weekly, February 6, 1995, review of TheMark, pp. 72-73.
Washington Post Book World, April 23, 1995, Jeff Stein, "Twenty Years After: Marking an Ending," p. 9.
Jacques Leslie's Home Page,http://www.well.com/user/jacques (July 29, 2002).
Scholar; Massachusetts Community College Council,http://www.mccc-union.org/ (October 1, 2002), Timothy E. Trask, review of The Mark.