WHEN ONE CONSIDERS just how limited are the resources and budget of the Canadian media, it is genuinely astounding that this country continues to produce and employ journalists of such consummate quality. Allen Abel is a New Yorker, but his work as first a sport columnist and then a foreign correspondent has been for the Globe and Mail and CBC's "The journal." In his pithy, stylish, and bitingly intelligent Scaring Myself Again (HarperCollins, 249 pages, $24.95 cloth),
Abel tells of his experiences in Germany and Iran, Brazil and Kuwait, Romania and China. And he tells of them with a humanity and an empathy for those he writes about that leave an indelible impression on our hearts and minds:
This is Air Canada flight 856, overnight to Heathrow with connections to a trough of human misery, a valley in West Asia where a million strangers, maybe more, lie hungry and freezing tonight, while I pull on my elastic airline giveaway sockettes and watch the other passengers come aboard.
Compassion worn not on a sleeve, but shown implicitly in careful and considered words. That is not a simple or facile quality in a profession that prides itself on its cynicism.
Scaring Myself Again is the most truthful portrait of the life of a foreign correspondent that I have read for a very long time. The key triumph of the book, however, lies elsewhere; whether Abel is in a Third World slum or an oil-rich dictatorship, he never claims or pretends to have answers, but always leaves his readers with a plethora of questions. Quite an art, that.