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Do Travel Writers Go to Hell?: A…

Do Travel Writers Go to Hell?: A Swashbuckling Tale of High Adventures,…

by Thomas Kohnstamm

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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
Wow, did I hate this book. What an ass. ( )
  AlCracka | Apr 2, 2013 |
Kohnstamm's memoir is not so much about writing his first guidebook for Lonely Planet as it is a self-congratulatory screed lauding substance abuse, poor choices, dubious sexual encounters, and generally unpleasant behavior. Kohnstamm seems to think he's charming and attractive, yet there's little in his self-description to inclines the reader in that direction. I was willing to hold my distaste in abeyance until he sold drugs to supplement his income, at which point I read more from determination to finish than from interest. Kohnstamm seems to need life to be dramatic to be meaningful, and appears to view only drugs and bad behavior as authentic. In his list of categories of travel writers, he omits "unhappy drunk ," though he illustrates it nicely throughout. Two stars for the parts that are interesting, though it's like wiping away someone else's vomit to get to them. ( )
  OshoOsho | Mar 30, 2013 |
I love to travel and enjoy reading travel writing so I picked up this tale at my local library. It proved to be a fast, light read that was entertaining if somewhat unfulfilling. The reader is treated to the author's adventures in sex, drinking, drug-taking/dealing, and occasional efforts to write a guidebook to Brazil for Lonely Planet. It's a bit of a contrast in styles; on one hand he is completely irresponsible, quitting a job on Wall Street and breaking up with a long-time girlfriend to take part in this lurid adventure, but seems to genuinely care about writing a decent guide to the country.

The parts of the book that deal with the authors challenges and anxieties about writing the guidebook were fairly engaging. I couldn't help but imagine how I would try and write a travel guide and compared that to the authors efforts. Considering his time and budget, the research and writing seem like an impossible task and should be a wake up to anyone dreams of one day becoming a travel guide writer.

The rest of the book is an alcohol-fueled sex-romp through Brazil that gets a bit repetitive but stays entertaining and not tedious. The author is talented at painting quick but vivid portraits of the people he meets (locals and fellow travelers alike), but does a comparatively poor job at describing the cities he visits. I suppose that's what the Lonely Planet book is for, but still, I kept thinking that this story could have been anywhere.

It's not a book I would recommend to my parents or anyone else uptight, but if you're thinking of writing a guidebook or enjoy light travel writing, this could be for you! Overall my recommendation is borrow, not buy, this book. ( )
  brownmn | Mar 3, 2011 |
Sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll...that's what you get when you agree to update Lonely Planet Brazil- and that's just the first few chapters! Thomas Kohnstamm recounts his trip on little money, dodgy encounters, beautiful women and unique people. It's a light, fun read that will make you think twice before blindly following the Lonely Planet on your next trip. Thomas writes well and had me laughing on a packed commuter train. It's a little bit same-y in places (sex, drinking, repeat), but hey, that's life! ( )
  birdsam0307 | Apr 12, 2010 |
Kohnstamm has read too much Bukowski, Hemingway, and Hunter S. Thompson, and maybe he's thought about them too little.

Whatever the narrator may think (I'm doing Kohnstamm the favour of assuming that he's different from his book), constant substance abuse and promiscuity do not make him enviably manly - they make him a frat boy. As the above authors prove, you can write about being drunk & stoned out of your brain, but none of them had that as their sole theme.

He thoroughly alienated me during the first several chapters, which are mostly taken up with his complaints about missing the '90s employment gravy train by going to grad school. To be fair, he does show himself getting a reality check later in the book. If only he'd done the same for his life goal of sleeping with one or more women from each continent. Ew.

His squalid adventures in Brazil (i.e. reeling from one manipulating woman to the next) are interspersed with some decent writing about the experience of writing the Lonely Planet on no dollars a day. Then, just as you start getting interested, he inevitably returns to his major theme: how drunk he is. Again. As designated drivers know, there is nothing so dull as listening to people wail "I'm so waaaaasted", believing that this is interesting conversation.

This is callow piffle that makes Chuck Thompson's similar but better "Smile When You're Lying" look like Pulitzer material. Better yet, read Hunter S. Thompson covering the Kentucky Derby with Ralph Steadman. ( )
1 vote Cynara | Jun 10, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307394654, Paperback)

For those who think that travel guidebooks are the gospel truth.

The waitress suggests that I come back after she closes down the restaurant, around midnight. We end up having sex in a chair and then on one of the tables in the back corner. I pen a note in my Moleskine that I will later recount in the guidebook review, saying that the restaurant “is a pleasant surprise . . . and the table service is friendly.” –Thomas Kohnstamm, professional travel writer and author of numerous Lonely Planet guidebooks

WANTED: Travel Writer for Brazil
Decisiveness: the ability to desert your entire previous life–including well-salaried office job, attractive girlfriend, and basic sanity for less than minimum wage
Attention to detail: the skill to research northeastern Brazil, including transportation, restaurants, hotels, culture, customs, and language, while juggling sleep deprivation, nonstop nightlife, and excessive alcohol consumption
Creativity: the imagination to write about places you never actually visit
Resourcefulness: utilizing persuasion, seduction, and threats, when necessary, to secure a place to stay for the evening once your pitiable advance has been (mis)spent
Resilience: determination to overcome setbacks such as bankruptcy, disillusionment, and an ill-fated one-night stand with an Austrian flight attendant

As Kohnstamm comes to personal terms with each of these job requirements, he unveils the underside of the travel industry and its often-harrowing effect on writers, travelers, and the destinations themselves. Moreover, he invites us into his world of compromising and scandalous situations in one of the most exciting countries as he races against an impossible deadline.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:33:33 -0400)

"Hired as a contributor to a guidebook on Brazil, Thomas Kohnstamm left his job to fulfil his dream of being a travel writer. But he soon learned that the reality was far different than his expectations. In this book Thomas tells the story that didnt make it into the guidebook the tale of a desperate twenty-something ploughing his way through impossible amounts of research, a shrinking bank balance, a bevy of temptations and a looming deadline, ith the only comfort being that what he couldn't plagiarise, he could always make up!"--Provided by publisher.… (more)

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