Letters

Letters 08-31-2015

Inalienable Rights This is a response to the “No More State Theatre” in your August 24th edition. I think I will not be the only response to this pathetic and narrow-minded letter that seems rather out of place in the northern Michigan that I know. To think we will not be getting your 25 cents for the movie you refused to see, but more importantly we will be without your “two cents” on your thoughts of a marriage at the State Theatre...

Enthusiastically Democratic Since I was one of the approximately 160 people present at when Senator Debbie Stabenow spoke on August 14 in Charlevoix, I was surprised to read in a letter to Northern Express that there was a “rather muted” response to Debbie’s announcement that she has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president...

Not Hurting I surely think the State Theatre will survive not having the homophobic presence of Colleen Smith and her family attend any matinees. I think “Ms.” Smith might also want to make sure that any medical personnel, bank staff, grocery store staff, waiters and/or waitress, etc. are not homosexual before accepting any service or product from them...

Stay Home I did not know whether to laugh or cry when I read the letter of the extremely homophobic, “disgusted” writer. She now refuses to patronize the State Theatre because she evidently feels that its confines have been poisoned by the gay wedding ceremony held there...

Keep Away In response to Colleen Smith of Cadillac who refused to bring her family to the State Theatre because there was a gay wedding there: Keep your 25 cents and your family out of Traverse City...

Celebrating Moore And A Theatre I was 10 years old when I had the privilege to see my first film at the State Theatre. I will never forget that experience. The screen was almost the size of my bedroom I shared with my older sister. The bursting sounds made me believe I was part of the film...

Outdated Thinking This letter is in response to Colleen Smith. She made public her choice to no longer go to the State Theater due to the fact that “some homosexuals” got married there. I’m not outraged by her choice; we don’t need any more hateful, self-righteous bigots in our town. She can keep her 25 cents...

Mackinac Pipeline Must Be Shut Down Crude oil flowing through Enbridge’s 60-yearold pipeline beneath the Mackinac Straits and the largest collection of fresh water on the planet should be a serious concern for every resident of the USA and Canada. Enbridge has a very “accident” prone track record...

Your Rights To Colleen, who wrote about the State Theatre: Let me thank you for sharing your views; I think most of us are well in support of the first amendment, because as you know- it gives everyone the opportunity to express their opinions. I also wanted to thank Northern Express for not shutting down these types of letters right at the source but rather giving the community a platform for education...

No Role Model [Fascinating Person from last week’s issue] Jada quoted: “I want to be a role model for girls who are interested in being in the outdoors.” I enjoy being in the outdoors, but I don’t want to kill animals for trophy...

Home · Articles · News · Books · Do travel writers go to Hell
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Do travel writers go to Hell

Robert Downes - June 30th, 2008
Indiana Jones, look out: when it comes to gutsy adventurers and studly chick magnets, you’re no match for Lonely Planet travel guide writer Thomas Kohnstamm, who has penned a gonzo memoir of six smokin’ hot weeks in Brazil.
Er, make that “ex”-Lonely Planet writer because Kohnstamm is currently persona non grata at the travel guide publishing house, owing to the damning details of his new memoir, “Do Travel Writers Go to Hell?” in which he admits that he made up much of the information he collected in a Lonely Planet guide to northeast Brazil.
And not only that, but in subsequent news reports, Kohnstamm outed himself as a fraud, claiming that he made up details in 12 Lonely Planet guidebooks and didn’t even bother visiting Columbia for his research. He wrote the book from his apartment in San Francisco.
“They didn’t pay me enough to go (to) Columbia,” he is widely reported as stating in what has become a Jayson Blair-style scandal in the travel writing industry. “I wrote the book in San Francisco. I got the information from a chick I was dating - an intern in the Colombian Consulate.”
The controversy over Kohnstamm’s confession has raged in the travel writing press and blogosphere for weeks since the publication of “Do Travel Writers Go to Hell?” Since that time, he’s redeemed himself somewhat by noting that his work on Lonely Planet’s Columbia guidebook was strictly intended as a company-approved “desk rewrite” via information skimmed from the Internet.
As for inventing the information in other guidebooks, Kohnstamm goes into lengthy detail in his new book on the hellish process of travel writing, explaining that Lonely Planet doesn’t give its poverty-stricken writers nearly enough time or money to complete the encyclopedic task of revising its guidebooks.
Whatever, Kohnstamm’s reputation has been blown to a million little pieces, so to speak, but that doesn’t keep “Do Travel Writers Go to Hell?” from being a wildly entertaining read that will have travel junkies glued to their chairs, flipping pages and laughing out loud.
The only problem with the book is, how do you believe this guy? He swears in the introduction that the six weeks he spent in Brazil were all true, barring a few blended characters, name changes, and shifts in time.
But you can’t help wondering if the book, subtitled “A Swashbuckling Tale of High Adventures, Questionable Ethics and Professional Hedonism” is a tall tale of the sort that would make Pecos Bill and Paul Bunyan blush at the audacity of its fibs.
For starters, Kohnstamm beds so many beautiful women at the drop of a hat that the reader can only imagine he’s got Tom Cruise beat in the looks department, and the charm of Johnny Depp. Perhaps his photos don’t do him justice.
But that’s getting ahead of the story: As Kohnstamm tells it, he was raised by parents who loved to travel, taking him from his home in Seattle each summer to trips across the country, Europe and North Africa. He lived for a time in India, and then after college, bummed around Spain in an old hearse; studied Portugese and international affairs in Buenos Aires; and spent three years in Costa Rica.
But as the book opens, Kohnstamm finds himself working in an office cubicle in New York City, doing low-profile tasks such as filing and creating spreadsheets for a law firm that’s trying to get some dot.com crooks off the hook. In an epiphany that his life is soulless and going nowhere, Kohnstamm tells his boss to shove it and accepts a travel writing assignment from Lonely Planet to cover northeast Brazil. This is by dint of his having already written a book for the company on how to speak Central American Spanish.
Arriving in Rio, Kohnstamm quickly beds a beautiful six-foot-tall, blond Lufthansa airline hostess and falls in with a colorful cast of international backpackers (an aging drug dealer, an Israeli ex-commando, hookers, etc.) at a hostel just off the Copacabana beach. Endless lines of coke are snorted and oceans of beers are consumed as the sun rises over the Sugarloaf.
Kohnstamm pushes on to northeast Brazil and beach towns such as Recife, rapidly spending his book advance. He finds it impossible to complete the research Lonely Planet demands, noting that he has some 60 towns to cover over more than 1,000 miles, including all the details of the hotels, restaurants, travel information, nightlife and many other items for each one.
Running low on cash with his deadline looming, the crux of the book is how Kohnstamm manages to get the job done by tempting hotel owners to “comp” him on the basis of his prestigious Lonely Travel credentials (which could result in favorable reviews in the guide). He shares an apartment with a “model” who turns out to be something else; dabbles at selling Ecstasy to backpackers; has more casual sex with ever-willing women (including “friendly table service” with a waitress after hours); and spends much of his time drunk or stoned.
It’s a fascinating page-turner of a book, but should be read in the same spirit as “Tropic of Cancer” by Henry Miller, which was a scandalous memoir of what goes on in the erotic corners of a man’s imagination, rather than a true story.
For instance, Kohnstamm may claim his tale is all true, but he also told the New York Times that he was beaten and pistol-whipped by a gang of thugs in Columbia, prior to admitting that he had never been to the country before. And then later claiming that the incident happened on another trip to Columbia... Sure Thomas, we don’t want to doubt ya.
But whether Kohnstamm is really the drunken Casanova he claims to be, there’s no disputing that he’s a gifted writer who tells a hell of a story. If nothing else, you’ll have a good time trying to decipher whether Kohnstamm is a genuine adventurer, or a world class BS’er.
 
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