Do blog writers go to Hell? So where does the line start?

September 24, 2008

I leave for Las Vegas in two days and, like all dedicated travel writers, I’m doing some research ahead of my trip.

Which would explain why I’m sitting outside the only Starbucks location in Napier, sipping at a grande Anniversary Blend filter coffee, and reading. I’m a block from the ocean and spring has well and truly arrived, as evidenced by the 25-degree temperature. (For those newcomers to this blog, that’s Napier as in New Zealand, where everything is metric and our seasons are flip-flopped.)

So why am I frowning? It’s not the coffee. In a country that went from instant to espresso seemingly overnight, Starbucks is the only joint in town where I can get a decent filter coffee. (“Decent” not “good.” I’m not in North America yet.)

No, what has me down on such a great high of a day is the book in front of me. Do Travel Writers Go to Hell?, by Thomas Kohnstamm, has caused quite the little stir among my Travel Media Association of Canada (TMAC) brethren. Although I suspect part of the kerfluffle is pure jealousy (“Damn! I wanted to write that book!”), there is also a professional reason to wince as Kohnstamm regales us with his adventures as a travel writer for the Lonely Planet’s guide to Brazil.

“…the two most important attributes for a travel writer are a strong liver and a good ability to bullshit,” Kohnstamm informs us on Page 145. To that I would add, luck and good timing. Notice that neither of us has talent on our list.

(I would also add a good editor to the package. I’m reading the Australian imprint, in which some moron — Kohnstamm himself, perhaps? — does not know the difference between leach and leech. See above comment about talent.)

TMAC members have their collective noses out of joint because, apparently (the principle of full disclosure requires me to note that I have yet to reach that particular passage), Kohnstamm admits to faking parts of his research and subsequent submissions. The fear now, of course, is all travel writers will be painted with that same slacker brush (Holy shades of James Frey, Batman!) and will no longer be trusted by the reading public.

Or, even worse, the freebies just might dry up. The horror!

Truth be told, as a fellow travel scribe, I’m not that pissed at Kohnstamm. He’d have to be a better writer for me to waste time working up my ire. HOWEVER, I am less than impressed with how Kohnstamm portrays men through his actions.

Apparently little more than an erection with legs, Kohnstamm spends half his time trying to have sex with women and the other half scheming how to get far away from his new conquest, short of gnawing off his own arm if she happens to be sleeping on it.

In the end, his minor sin of being an untrustworthy writer is overshadowed by his major sin of being a pig.


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