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Do Travel Writers Go To Hell review

Whether it’s fashion (The Devil Wears Prada) or childcare (The Nanny Diaries), tell-all books rely on serving-up the insider juice. Thomas Kohnstamm puts the squeeze on Lonely Planet with his memoir of writing his first guidebook to Brazil.

Kohnstamm is off to a rocky start by sleeping with a flight attendant almost as he’s disembarking the plane in Rio. This just after he vows to “wring the life out of the project” which if he does it right “could even improve international relations”.
Contradiction riddles this book. What might have been conceived as humour is bragging about shagging on someone else’s dollar. Concern about Lonely Planetization (when guidebooks damage local cultures with the numbers of visitors they bring) is undermined by Kohnstamm riding the tsunami by flashing his business card for kickbacks.
It might have been that Kohnstamm needed to embellish his tale with sex and drugs to keep it interesting (actual research and writing is glossed over), but it’s more self involvement with only Brazil postcard observations. There’s no grit to this dirt.

This review originally appeared in The Big Issue, no 304.

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