To say I have mixed feelings about this book would be an understatement. I loved the concept, which is why I chose it from NetGalley a while ago. Due to the nature of his undertaking, Podell’s book has been many years in the making. During this time, many things have changed, some, seemingly without Podell having noticed. Nobody told him, I guess, after he left Playboy, that being a self-described “horndog” stopped being cool in the 80s. More concerning, while Podell seems in some cases to be extremely considerate of the native people he encounters on his travels, he is oddly inconsistent in his comments about them. I would be hard-pressed to convince any woman I know to read this book, since it is, in some places, stunningly chauvinistic and often purely galling. Men, on the other hand, may be enamored with his past as a jack-of-all-trades (editor at Playboy, photographer, lawyer, horndog with unlimited funds) and will probably love him. Go figure.
At the end of this book, there is an enormous list of proofreaders for the 16 drafts Podell allegedly undertook before completing his manuscript. I don’t say this lightly, because I am aware of the disclaimer publishers put on their uncorrected proofs, but this was one of the worst (grammatically and typo-wise) I have ever seen. Given the fact that he was an editor and a lawyer, I found this shocking. I say this only because reviews of the actual published book also mention excessive typos.
To be completely fair, there is a lot to like in this book. Podell has stories unlikely to be found anywhere else, given some of the more obscure places he has traveled. What’s more, he exhibits many signs of sensitive behavior toward the locals, which I found comforting given he might sometimes be the only American these people will ever see. To that note, I found his notes about NGOs and Aid workers upsetting the local economies interesting and poignant.
He has an impressive list of accomplishments — including 32 years as a lawyer without ever losing a jury trial (though I was wondering how many actual cases he had tried, given so many 65-day vacations) Podell is working on a book now about his “sexual misadventures”. Gosh, I thought I just read that.