paper trail

Jun 13, 2011 @ 4:00:00 am

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.”

Carmela Ciuraru—if that is indeed her real name—is speaking with Troy Patterson tonight at Bookcourt about her entertaining new history of pseudonyms, Nom de Plume.

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”?