Wendy's Reviews > Do Travel Writers Go to Hell?: A Swashbuckling Tale of High Adventures, Questionable Ethics, and Professional Hedonism

Do Travel Writers Go to Hell? by Thomas Kohnstamm
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Apr 29, 08

Read in April, 2008

Naturally, it's difficult to be objective about this book given the anticipatory grief it caused me and my closeness to the subject. It's tempting to engage in a close reading of the book, seeking - and finding - errors in presentation of facts, even more errors in judgment and, most of all, many errors of omission.

As a memoir: eh. Typical, but fairly sloppy lowbrow lad lit. I’m not particularly interested in or impressed by TK’s prodigious partying and substance abuse and his constant skirt-chasing was really rather disgusting (I do not envy those reading for a cameo as a named or unnamed sexual conquest: they’re generally given quite short shift: the waitress mentioned on the back cover copy isn’t given a name or description of any kind). That said, he can be rather humorous at times, particularly with dialog, so fiction might suit him better and might lead to some deeper thinking and a more nuanced structure.

TK as travel writer: I don’t think he presents the task entirely accurately, and in particular, I think his befuddlement with the difficulty of the task is extremely disingenuous. That said, I know from firsthand experience that it’s a challenging job with a steep learning curve and I also know that he was given a difficult assignment first time out (though I do not believe it was as difficult as he claims). Many of the points he makes about the LP’s direction/guidebooks/tourism/etc are salient - sometimes a little obvious, other times a bit more fleshed out and complex. I think his sense of his impact as a writer on the guidebook’s users is overstated and quite bigheaded and in fact, the egomania displayed in the book overall is sometimes off-putting.

All in all: Unsavory. Fairly entertaining, though I’m not sure how much interest it would generate among those without an interest in the whole LP-TK-travel writer ethics fiasco.

Also of note: the book is absolutely riddled with typos.
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Jane can't wait to hear what you reckon. got a damning review in the weekend paper here.


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