Notable for its spirited prose and insightful exploration of the less-romantic side of travel writing. Kohnstamm is one to...

DO TRAVEL WRITERS GO TO HELL?

A SWASHBUCKLING TALE OF HIGH ADVENTURES, QUESTIONABLE ETHICS AND PROFESSIONAL HEDONISM

The colorful adventures of a budding travel writer in Brazil.

After pursuing an advanced degree in Latin American studies, Kohnstamm reluctantly took a position as a researcher at a large Wall Street firm. The restless author quickly tired of the corporate drudgery and, after some hesitation, accepted an assignment to update Lonely Planet’s guidebook on Brazil. The resulting book (a “chronicle [of] events that took me from bourgeoisie working stiff with a repressed travel habit to a full-time mercenary travel hack, with all the good, bad, and surreal shit that it entails”) is a wonderfully picaresque journey through the vibrant Brazilian landscape. Following a marathon bender through the streets of Manhattan with his friend, “the Doctor” (one of the book’s many parallels to the work of Hunter S. Thompson), Kohnstamm departed for Rio de Janeiro with little more than his laptop and a few changes of clothes. He awoke the first morning in bed with Inga, a Lufthansa stewardess who proved to be one of many female companions bedded by Kohnstamm, who comes off here as quite the Casanova. Amidst the hard partying and endless nights, however, the author began to realize the difficulty of gathering adequate information about the countless locales he must visit. With his paltry funds dwindling, he reached out to previous Lonely Planet scribes, most of whom were far from reassuring: “Remember that if you are in your room at night writing, you aren’t doing enough bar research.” Along the way he befriended numerous memorable characters: Nils, a baggage handler from Copenhagen and singer for a grunge band, Synthetic Jesus; Inara, a Brazilian beauty who shares an apartment with the author for a couple of weeks (and who turns out to be a prostitute of sorts); Otto, formerly of the Israeli Defense Force; Mr. Yay, so named for his prodigious coke habit; and Bobby, from whom the author buys Ecstasy tablets in an effort to make some quick cash. Readers will relish the countless stories of the author’s misadventures, but Kohnstamm brings more than just anecdotes: He offers a solid understanding of the mechanics of the travel-writing industry and a unique ability to illuminate that world to readers.

Notable for its spirited prose and insightful exploration of the less-romantic side of travel writing. Kohnstamm is one to watch.

Pub Date: April 22, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-307-39465-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Three Rivers/Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2008

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NUTCRACKER

This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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