Symmes, Patrick 1964-
Symmes, Patrick 1964-
Born July 12, 1964, in New Haven, CT; son of David (a research scientist) and Jean (a psychologist) Symmes. Education: Wesleyan University, B.A.
Writer, contributing editor and freelance foreign correspondent. Worked at various newspapers and news outlets.
Chasing Che: A Motorcycle Journey in Search of the Guevara Legend, Vintage (New York, NY), 2000.
The Boys from Dolores: Fidel Castro's Schoolmates from Revolution to Exile, Pantheon Books (New York, NY), 2007.
Contributing editor to Harper's magazine. Contributor to periodicals, including Outside, GQ, Conde Nast Traveler, New York, and Wired.
Patrick Symmes is a freelance journalist who has published two books. The first, Chasing Che: A Motorcycle Journey in Search of the Guevara Legend, is an account of the author's travels through South America on a motorcycle. He was following a route taken by the legendary revolutionary Che Guevara in 1952. Guevara was a young man then, in his early twenties, and it is said that his trip, which was also by motorcycle, opened his eyes to politics and his calling in life. Symmes's next book also concerns a Latin American revolutionary, Guevara's one-time associate, Fidel Castro of Cuba. The Boys from Dolores: Fidel Castro's Schoolmates from Revolution to Exile focuses on Castro's school days and his companions at the Colegio de Dolores, an exclusive Catholic prep school he at- tended, along with his brothers Raúl and Ramon. The school, run by Jesuits, was also attended by many other notable students, including the Bacardis, famous for their family's distillery; young cadets who went into the employ of the Central Intelligence Agency; and others who ended up fighting in Castro's revolution. The story of this influential class is told in "a rich, personal, meticulous, deeply layered work of narrative journalism," stated Guy Martin in a review on the New York Times Online. Praising Symmes's writing style, Martin called the author "a rarity among journalists, humorous and wise enough to report the historiographical obstacles he faced. As a result, he brings us a ground truth, apolitical in the best sense, and a great depth of vision." Reviewing the book for the Pop Matters Web site, Enrique Fernandez praised the author for his evenhanded treatment of his subject, noting that Symmes does not pretend to have answers to political puzzles: "What he has is heart, and his observations are on the money. A travel writer, Symmes delivers a muscular prose and a keen sense of detail."
Symmes once told CA: "Most of my articles are political travelogues, set in the troubled regions and on the cultural fault lines of our shrinking sphere. I've been to Cuba eight times, and have hobnobbed with guerilla groups in Peru, Columbia, and Cambodia. I've traveled New Zealand, Patagonia, the western deserts of China, the peaks of Wyoming and Montana, the Sinai desert, and much of the Andes. My articles are filled with peasants, refugees, and slum dwellers. My travels have only been possible thanks to them; I hope my work repays some of that generosity.
"I started as a file clerk at the Washington Post, went to boot camp at the Middletown Press [Connecticut], passed briefly through the Hartford Courant, and—after a detour through college and a few walkabouts—washed up in the gutter of freelance journalism. Aside from five horrifying months at ABC News London and two years at Washington City Paper writing 8,000-word features every six seconds, I've been here ever since."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Symmes, Patrick, Chasing Che: A Motorcycle Journey in Search of the Guevara Legend, Vintage (New York, NY), 2000.
Booklist, February 15, 2000, Gilbert Taylor, review of Chasing Che, p. 1075; September 15, 2000, Brad Hooper, review of Chasing Che, p. 209; June 1, 2007, Jay Freeman, review of The Boys from Dolores: Fidel Castro's Schoolmates from Revolution to Exile, p. 24.
Entertainment Weekly, August 10, 2007, Katia Hetter, review of The Boys from Dolores, p. 73.
Geographical, August, 2007, Mick Herron, review of The Boys from Dolores, p. 88.
Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2007, review of The Boys from Dolores.
Library Journal, February 1, 2000, Mark L. Grover, review of Chasing Che, p. 108; June 15, 2007, Boyd Childress, review of The Boys from Dolores, p. 80.
Publishers Weekly, January 24, 2000, review of Chasing Che, p. 304; April 30, 2007, review of The Boys from Dolores, p. 147.
Entertainment Weekly Online,http://www.ew.com/ (August 3, 2007), Katia Hetter, review of The Boys from Dolores.
New York Times Online,http://www.nytimes.com/ (December 9, 2007), Guy Martin, "Children of the Revolution."
Patrick Symmes Home Page,http://patricksymmes.com (February 4, 2008).
Pop Matters,http://www.popmatters.com/ (July 31, 2007), Enrique Fernandez, review of The Boys from Dolores.