Praise for Lake City
"A caustic satire on class privilege and deprivation . . . Along with steeping you in the sodden, bone-chilling back streets of Lake City, Kohnstamm serves up historical background on the neighborhood and even tosses in a capsule corporate history of Fred Meyer for good measure . . . The portrait Kohnstamm offers of a Seattle backwater trailing in the wake of the Emerald City’s rising glamour is indelible." Michael Upchurch, The Seattle Times
"I love Thomas Kohnstamm for writing a whole book set in Lake City. Someone had to. Someone had to make something of the in-between area known for its car dealerships, its strip club, its sub sandwich shop, and its couple of bars. A place that doesn't even know if it's a lake or a city or a city of lakes. In Kohnstamm's debut novel, a semi-shitty guy named Lane Beuche has fallen on hard times. He's lost his wife, he's living in his mom's house, and he thinks he deserves the life of privilege from which he's been unceremoniously banished. Watch him climb out of the hole he dug for himself, and enjoy the elegy for old Seattle along the way." Rich Smith, The Stranger
“An intelligent, darkly comic page turner . . . Parts of it read like outtakes from Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections or Jess Walter’s The Financial Lives of Poets. . . Kohnstamm has a zippy sense of plot and a fine eye for detail.” Stefan Milne, Seattle Met
"Kohnstamm’s book takes you into the heart of this usually ignored corner of Northeast Seattle and lucidly portrays the grit of Lake City Way, its trailer parks, its dive bars, and, most vividly, its Fred Meyer." Lester Black, The Stranger
"This is a book that embraces Gary Snyder’s unofficial title as 'The Poet of Lake City.' Hell, the very first page of the story reads like a poem praising the strip malls and run-down garages of Lake City Way . . . Lake City is a story as pugnacious and as charming as its protagonist . . . Kohnstamm may be concerned with recreating a Seattle of a different time, but he insists on engaging modern Seattle in a deep conversation." Paul Constant, The Seattle Review of Books
"The Fred Meyer scenes are glorious . . . Kohnstamm is at his best when he's sending up a special kind of virtue-signaling liberal who claims to live their life in constant service to the oppressed, but who doesn't actually do anything for them . . . Local readers will likely enjoy the familiar locations and scraps of lore." Rich Smith, The Stranger
“All at once hip, intrepid, and philosophical . . . Kohnstamm’s fresh voice has a millennial groove, the story is engaging and gritty, and there’s an impressive scrutiny of personal and societal ethics.” Publishers Weekly
"Snarky social commentary on the world of Seattle have-nots." Kirkus Reviews
“ Lake City is a darkly funny and extremely relevant debut novel about American inequality and moral authority, featuring a sad-sack antihero who takes way too long to grow up. When he finally does, the results are beautiful, and the book ultimately becomes an elegy for a now-gone Seattle, and a lesson in how the place we’re from never fully lets us go.” Anthony Doerr, author of All the Light We Cannot See
"Kohnstamm delivers a blistering, clear-eyed, and surefooted debut novel about the perils and pitfalls of misdirected ambition. More than that, Lake City is a hilarious and sneakily incisive examination of the cultural tensions, and widening class divides that simmer on the fringes of an increasingly homogenized Seattleor San Francisco, or Brooklyn, or Los Angeles, or any other American city in the throes of affluenza and gentrification." Jonathan Evison, author of Lawn Boy
“Kohnstamm has written a novel of Pale Male Fail above and below the poverty line, a Dickensian tale of a fledgling philosopher who’s taken flight from trailer parks to Gramercy Park and then . . . had his wings clipped. This is the American Dream cut thin on a grocery store meat slicer, laced with oxy, stolen booze, and an unfinished dissertation. It’s a rotgut to Dom Pérignon rainbow, which is to say: Lake City is a crucial black comedy about the myths of money and happiness, and whether nature, nurture, or AmEx rears a better man.” Maria Dahvana Headley, New York Times –bestselling author of The Mere Wife
“There are so many reasons to admire Thomas Kohnstamm’s astonishing debut novel: his astute and cutting depiction of urban gentrification, his pitch-perfect evocation of a young man’s endless ricochet between self-aggrandizement and self-hatred, his vision of Seattle’s grungy underside that is so richly related one can almost smell the cedar and cannabis wafting off the pages. And yet, it is Kohnstamm’s innate storytelling vervehis taut, noirish knack for plotting and his ability to make the reader laugh, cringe, worry, and feel for his characters all at once that makes Lake City truly unputdownable.” Stefan Merrill Block, author of Oliver Loving: A Novel
“Kohnstamm knowingly illuminates the underbelly of Seattlea place of beater cars, strip clubs, and a subpar hypermarketfar from the hipsters and gentrifiers. Hilarious as it is cutting, Lake City offers an all-too-insightful critique of clashing classes and misguided ideas of success.” Shari Goldhagen, author of In Some Other World, Maybe
"How many things can go wrong when you try to straddle the line between two economically defined classes in the lovely city of Seattle, Washington, just after the tragic events of 9/11? Lane just wants his wife back (along with her money, of course) but getting into her good graces won’t be easy. When he’s drawn into a scheme to trick a young birth mother in his neighborhood, he thinks it will be a quick step back to the life he’s after. But things often don’t go the way we expect. Eventually, he’s forced to admit that something has to give, and he can’t ignore the needs of the small child that has been caught in this web of intrigue. This is a beautifully crafted debut novel from a man whose writing Jonathan Evison calls 'clear-eyed' and 'blistering.' I couldn’t agree more." Linda Bond, Auntie's Bookstore (Spokane, WA)
Praise for Thomas Kohnstamm
"A comic rogue who seems to have modeled his life and prose on Hunter S. Thompson's." The New York Times
"Kohnstamm is one to watch." Kirkus Reviews
Praise for Do Travel Writers Go to Hell?
"A comic rogue who seems to have modeled his life and prose on Hunter S. Thompson's . . . I could not get enough of the most depraved travel book of the year." The New York Times
"Hilarious." The New York Times Book Review
"The shot heard 'round the travel world…" The Washington Post
"It's Upton Sinclair's The Jungle , but with tourism… [Lonely Planet CEO] Ms. Slatyer made Mr. Kohnstamm's book sound dangerous." The New York Observer
"Kohnstamm is nobody's model travel journalist, except maybe Hunter Thompson's… [he's the] sudden enfant terrible of his field… Do Travel Writers Go To Hell? is the best-written, funniest book of travel literature since Phaic Tan." The Philadelphia Inquirer
"[Kohnstamm]'s the first to blow the whistle on the travel industry's dirty little secret." T Magazine, The Moment blog, The New York Times
"Thomas Kohnstamm's raw portrayal of life as a young, broke travel writer in South America… A must-read for any backpackerfuture, past, or present." Outside
"The colorful adventures of a budding travel writer in Brazil… a wonderfully picaresque journey through the vibrant Brazilian landscape . . . 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." Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Lane was sure he had escaped Lake City for good. But suddenly he's back slicing meat at a discount deli counter and grubbing his mom's boyfriend's beers. This calls for extreme measures.
Lake City is a neighborhood on the fringes of Seattle: "the mistress that grown-up Seattle kept around from its younger, untamed years. The one with electric blue eyeliner and a missing incisor," "the leaky, yellowed fridge in a remodeled kitchen of granite countertops and fresh stainless steel appliances." In other words, the part of town left behind by the Microsoft/Amazon/Starbucks explosion. After landing a wealthy girlfriend at the University of Washington, Lane was able to leave his trashy roots behind and reinvent himself as a married Columbia grad student in New York City. But shortly after 9/11, the dream is over—Lane's wife, Mia, has been supporting the couple and paying Lane's tuition with her family's money, but now her father is instructing her to dump Lane and cut off funds. Lane finds himself back home at Christmastime, sleeping in his mom's TV room, driving her car, working at the local Fred Meyer discount store, trying desperately to avoid being reabsorbed into the loser lifestyle of the drug- and booze-addled locals he grew up with. In a frantic bid to make enough cash to get back to New York and reclaim his beautiful life, he gets involved in a creepy scheme a wannabe adoptive couple has cooked up to sabotage their little boy's birth mother so they will be awarded permanent custody. Kohnstamm (Do Travel Writers Go to Hell?, 2008) stirred up a hullaballoo with his Hunter S. Thompson-style exposé/memoir of the travel-guide industry; a cynical worldview and gonzo aesthetic remain in play here. His delusional, narcissistic antihero and unsympathetic supporting characters—some dangerously close to offensive stereotypes—don't catch many breaks as they ricochet from one nasty situation to the next, with cheap beer, repellent food (beware a riff on the composition of deli turkey), illegal drugs, and other local specialties never far from hand.
Amusing as snarky social commentary on the world of Seattle have-nots.