Patrick Leigh Fermor
Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor, the genial author famous for his exploits as a daring British soldier in World War II (he once kidnapped a German general) and for his wanderlust (he walked for a year across Europe in the mid-1930s), died on Friday at the age of ninety-six. Fermor’s reputation as one of the greatest travel writers in English is based on the first two books of an unfinished trilogy detailing his perambulations across the tumultuous pre-war European landscape while a teenager, A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water, written from memory forty years later. Recently, the NYRB published Fermor’s intriguing six-decade correspondence with the youngest of the Mitford sisters (the Duchess of Devonshire) and The Traveller's Tree, an account of his post-war travels in the Caribbean, in which he describes sharing a joint as “unwieldy as an ice-cream cone” with Rastafari in Jamaica. Anthony Lane, a friend and admirer of Fermor—his companions always called him “Paddy”—wrote of him in a 2006 profile, “This quintessential Englishman is, before anything else, a man of the world.”
Rozalia Jovanovic reports from poet Jon Cotner’s Spontaneous Society (sponsored by Elastic City), a group that journeys around Manhattan (or, in case of rain, within the Time Warner center) on a “good vibes” walking tour, trying to spread cheer through carefully calibrated phrases. It doesn’t always work: One man, when told that he was in a good place to smoke, aggressively confronted the Society, shouting, “What did you say to me?” But even this rebuff has poetic resonances to Cotner, who later told the group: “As the ancient Greek poet Sappho reminds us . . . when some fool explodes rage in your breast, / hold back that yapping tongue.”
The new n+1BR has just been published online. Meanwhile, in the n+1 offices, a new crop of summer interns has arrived, along with a precariously placed air-conditioner, and a hard-won verdict on an age-old question: Should it be “a historian” or “an historian”?