Wednesday, January 29, 2014

President Obama's State of the Union Address 2014: Pointing in the Right Direction

 I didn't see or hear President Obama's State of the Union address, but I've reviewed the text and found some things worth considering more carefully. Excerpts from the speech follow with some comments from me. (Bold type marks my emphasis.)
The question for everyone in this chamber, running through every decision we make this year, is whether we are going to help or hinder this progress. For several years now, this town has been consumed by a rancorous argument over the proper size of the federal government. It's an important debate -- one that dates back to our very founding. But when that debate prevents us from carrying out even the most basic functions of our democracy -- when our differences shut down government or threaten the full faith and credit of the United States -- then we are not doing right by the American people.
 Calling out House Republicans for their shameful behavior (okay, he didn't say "House Republicans", but we all know it) was completely appropriate. He needed to lay down his marker and he did.
And in the coming months -- (applause) -- in the coming months, let's see where else we can make progress together. Let's make this a year of action. That's what most Americans want, for all of us in this chamber to focus on their lives, their hopes, their aspirations. And what I believe unites the people of this nation, regardless of race or region or party, young or old, rich or poor, is the simple, profound belief in opportunity for all, the notion that if you work hard and take responsibility, you can get ahead in America. 
A restatement of the American Dream and ideals, but we have to take a hard look at whether its working as well as it should. I don't think so. 
Now, let's face it: That belief has suffered some serious blows. Over more than three decades, even before the Great Recession hit, massive shifts in technology and global competition had eliminated a lot of good, middle-class jobs, and weakened the economic foundations that families depend on.
Today, after four years of economic growth, corporate profits and stock prices have rarely been higher, and those at the top have never done better. But average wages have barely budged. Inequality has deepened. Upward mobility has stalled. The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by; let alone to get ahead. And too many still aren't working at all.
So our job is to reverse these trends.
It won't happen right away, and we won't agree on everything.
 Growing inequality is a creeping and its insidious. One of the benefits of living in another country is to see how things that you don't understand or appreciate in your own country effect other nations. India suffers from huge chasms of inequality, the rising middle class notwithstanding. If you consider nations with large amount of inequality, you see how they don't make the "best place to live" awards. American has normally been marked by a large degree of social and political equality, and the more we lose that quality, the more our social and political fabric suffers.
But what I offer tonight is a set of concrete, practical proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class. Some require congressional action, and I'm eager to work with all of you. But America does not stand still, and neither will I. (Applause.) So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that's what I'm going to do. (Cheers, applause.)
 In other words, "Republicans, you either part of the solution or a part of the problem. You've marked yourselves as problems and its time for you to go." I'm glad to hear Obama taking this type of bold stand, which seems contrary to his instincts, but sometimes you've got to go beyond instincts.
 The point is, there are millions of Americans outside Washington who are tired of stale political arguments and are moving this country forward. They believe, and I believe, that here in America, our success should depend not on accident of birth but the strength of our work ethic and the scope of our dreams. That's what drew our forebears here. It's how the daughter of a factory worker is CEO of America's largest automaker -- (applause) -- how the son of a barkeeper is speaker of the House -- (cheers, applause) -- how the son of a single mom can be president of the greatest nation on Earth.
Yes, most of us come from modest origins. This is a great strength of our nation. 
Moreover, we can take the money we save from this transition to tax reform to create jobs rebuilding our roads, upgrading our ports, unclogging our commutes -- because in today's global economy, first- class jobs gravitate to first-class infrastructure. We'll need Congress to protect more than 3 million jobs by finishing transportation and waterways bills this summer. (Cheers, applause.) That can happen.
Infrastructure in the U.S. is beginning to lag, and this a great way--assuming sound projects--to put people to work. That all of us fortunate enough to enjoy some of this prosperity will have to pay some more in taxes doesn't bother me.
Meanwhile, my administration will keep working with the industry to sustain production and jobs growth while strengthening protection of our air, our water, our communities. And while we're at it, I'll use my authority to protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations. (Applause.)
If you want to find out what poor environment standards mean for day-to-day living, come to India or China, and you'll find out. 
And taken together, our energy policy is creating jobs and leading to a cleaner, safer planet. Over the past eight years the United States has reduced our total carbon pollution more than any other nation on Earth. (Applause.)
But we have to act with more urgency because a changing climate is already harming western communities struggling with drought and coastal cities dealing with floods. That's why I directed my administration to work with states, utilities and others to set new standards on the amount of carbon pollution our power plants are allowed to dump into the air.
The shift -- (applause) -- the shift to a cleaner energy economy won't happen overnight, and it will require some tough choices along the way.
But the debate is settled. Climate change is a fact. (Applause.) And when our children's children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did. (Cheers, applause.)
Figuring out energy while reducing our carbon footprint is probably the greatest challenge the world faces now. To hear climate change raised in the public sphere in a clear and unequivocal voice is so welcome. We can't fix the problem until we acknowledge it, and the No-Nothing Party (once the proud Republican Party) won't do it. 
Tonight, because of the extraordinary troops and civilians who risk and lay down their lives to keep us free, the United States is more secure. When I took office, nearly 180,000 Americans were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, all our troops are out of Iraq. More than 60,000 of our troops have already come home from Afghanistan. With Afghan forces now in the lead for their own security, our troops have moved to a support role. Together with our allies, we will complete our mission there by the end of this year, and America's longest war will finally be over. (Applause.)
It should have happened sooner. The complexity and history of Afghanistan are so daunting that we'll never have a "victory", so we need to get out sooner rather than later.  Watch the superb Jaipur Literature Festival panel about Afghanistan if you want some sense of the problems that exist there.
But I strongly believe our leadership and our security cannot depend on our outstanding military alone. As commander in chief, I have used force when needed to protect the American people, and I will never hesitate to do so as long as I hold this office. But I will not send our troops into harm's way unless it is truly necessary, nor will I allow our sons and daughters to be mired in open-ended conflicts. We must fight the battles -- (applause) -- that need to be fought, not those that terrorists prefer from us -- large-scale deployments that drain our strength and may ultimately feed extremism.
Yes, they do drain us. Thanks for admitting it!  And yes, sometimes I think that the U.S. government is in the terrorist creation business (see under "drones").
So even as we actively and aggressively pursue terrorist networks, through more targeted efforts and by building the capacity of our foreign partners, America must move off a permanent war footing. (Applause.) That's why I've imposed prudent limits on the use of drones, for we will not be safer if people abroad believe we strike within their countries without regard for the consequence.
This can't be said often enough: war and democracy don't mix. War kills democracy. If we have to worry about it in an Obama Administration (and we do), then how much more in a future (Heaven forbid!) Bush administration? 
The sanctions that we put in place helped make this opportunity possible. But let me be clear: if this Congress sends me a new sanctions bill now that threatens to derail these talks, I will veto it. (Applause.) For the sake of our national security, we must give diplomacy a chance to succeed.
Super. We have to let all the world know that the U.S. will act in its perceived interests even if they conflict with the interests of any ally or friendly nation, whether it be Canada, the U.K. , or Israel. If Israel foolishly tries to torpedo negotiations with Iran (through the U.S. Congress, no less!), then President Obama is right to say "no". Simple. The war hawks in Congress need a firm "no" on this, and I'm very glad that Obama sent that message. After assuring our own national interest, we must support the State of Israel within the bounds of our interests and not simply follow the policies of any given Israeli government. 

All in all, a good message. Keep after it, Mr. President! 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Move over, Harry Hole: A Review of Closed for Winter (A William Wisting Mystery) by Jorn Lier Horst

The cornucopia of crime and detective novels coming out of Scandinavia unnerves me. Those affluent and chill residents of the north land with good government are subject to some very nasty criminals, at least according to their crime writers. Starting with Steig Larson and his dragon-tattooed heroine, to Henning Menkell (via television for me) to Jo Nesbo, we get a very different look at Scandinavia. Now I’ve added Jorn Lier Horst to my list of Scandinavian crime writers, and he’s a worthy addition. 

Unlike fellow Norwegian cop Harry Hole from Jo Nesbo, Lier Horst’s Wisting isn’t confronted—in this book at least—with psychopaths and persons bent on deep revenge. Instead, Wisting has to deal with, well, criminals, the sort that you encounter if you’ve had anything to do with the criminal justice system, as I have. Unlike criminals on screen or in fiction, most persons charged with crimes are screw-ups first and foremost. A few are professional, and fewer still are deadly. A police officer has to sort it all out, the dumb, the opportunistic, and the calculating. Sorting it all out is what William Wisting must do. 

Lier Horst was a cop until very recently, and it shows. Lier Horst displays an appreciation of the mundane challenges of policing, such as gathering evidence, dealing with co-workers and other agencies, interviewing witnesses and suspects, leading a personal life, and so on. Not always glamorous, but then how much of life is glamorous? I found Wisting an appealing character for his plainness and the realism of the plot. In my two forays with Jo Nesbo, The Redbreast and then The Snowman, I found the plots a bit too contrived, the villains too psychopathically sinister, and Harry Hole experiencing too many cliffhangers. Lier Horst’s effort in Closed for Winter avoids this fault. It intrigues by remaining largely prosaic. 

So Wisting now goes onto my list along with Arkady Renko, John Rebus, and John Marshall Tanner as characters that I will join again for another case.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

An Uncertain Glory: India and Its Contradictions by Jean Dreze & Amartya Sen

Two things drew me to this book. First, the co-author, Amartya Sen, winner of the Nobel Prize in economics, whose work goes far beyond mere economics into history, political theory, and a good deal about his native India. He’s co-authored works with Jean Dreze before. (And, he's the keynote speaker at the Jaipur Literature Festival this year!) But even if the authors hadn’t captured my attention, the sub-title would have: “India and Its Contradictions”. Sometimes a subtitle tells us more than the title, and this is such a case. As an extended visitor here in India, nothing has impressed me so much as its immense contradictions. 

When talking with friends and family back in the U.S. about India, I usually preface my remarks by saying that within sight of any trait that I identify is a counter-example. Extreme poverty, opulent wealth; beautiful buildings, collapsing buildings; bright capable individuals, ignorant masses (ignorant as in unschooled)—I could go on, but you get the idea. In all, India holds huge but largely unrealized potential. Compared to its neighbor China, which I visited this fall, India lags far, far behind. Why? 

Both India and China entered the post-World War II era with similar states of deprivation. China, of course, went through hells of famine, The Great Leap Forward, and the Cultural Revolution. India, a democracy since its birth, did not suffer such calamities. Yet today, China has entered the modern economic world at rocket speed while India remains at a plodding pace similar to the speeds of the animal carts one still encounters on the roads. Did India make a mistake opting for democracy? 

Sen and Dreze address these questions and others. They note the impressive rates of growth of the Indian economy in the last decade and more (now significantly slowed). Despite these growth rates and other markers of success, India lags behind many of its peers in the arenas of education, healthcare, inequality, and other markers of social well-being. China, on the other hand, performs much better in almost all of these areas. Indeed, Sen and Dreze note that China’s lead in education and health came long before the market reforms beginning in 1979 with Deng Xiaoping. Mao’s regime established basic standards. Indeed, within India the authors find significant gaps between many of the states, with Kerala (where we now live) and Tamil Nadu performing much higher on many of the measures of performance. Both have competitive elections with Communists and other left groups having held power. 

Toward the end of the book Sen and Dreze address the need for political action in India. Indeed, this book seems to bolster the contentions of Acemoglu and Robinson in their book, Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty. My one line summation of the Why Nations Fail: it’s all about the politics. Sen and Dreze seem to arrive at the same conclusion: a different direction of the political body politic would have taken India in a better direction, and it still can. Overcoming old mindsets, clientism, corruption, caste and class loyalties, and so on, won’t be easy. But until India decides to take a very different course, it will remain toward the back of the pack, all of the new billionaires notwithstanding. 

Anyone familiar with Indian politics might despair at this point. Both Congress and BJP seem wedded to the status quo. However, there are rays of hope. The Aad Adami (Common Man Party), running primarily on an anti-corruption platform, ran very strongly in Delhi recently and has now formed the government there. This may be the middle class political uprising that India needs. I’ve contended that until a politically motivated middle class takes the helm of politics, governance here—which remains poor—will continue to lag, and with it, the whole nation. In addition, the outcry from women’s groups after the ghastly rape and murder in Delhi last year suggest the political agenda may move away from the status quo, client-driven politics that mark the current climate. Some political leaders should be able to establish an agenda that provides the poor with both protection and real opportunities, while providing the middle class with a better quality of life. (The rich can take care of themselves.) 

India should exist as a beacon of hope as the largest democratic nation in the world, not as a laggard compared to its authoritarian, non-democratic neighbor China. An Uncertain Glory should serve as a bucket full of icy water in the face to wake-up Indian elites and the middle class to their current plight. A successful government isn’t one that will simply see a successful mission to Mars or focus on diplomatic tit-for-tat, but one that strives to provide a billion plus people the potential that can be theirs, one where disease, ignorance, and poverty aren’t driving forces in their lives and where those who’ve made into the middle class can enjoy a better quality of life.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Favorite Books of 2013

2013 was a very fine year in books as I look over my blog. I began this post thinking that I'd limit myself to five books, but I realized that I would fail as soon as I typed in the title. So some random thoughts by category: 

Political thinking: The Machiavellians: Defenders of Freedom by James Buchanan. Runner-up: Garments of Court and Palace: Machiavelli and the World He Made by Phillip Bobbitt. Special mention: The Gardens of Democracy: A New American Story of Citizenship, the Economy, and the Role of Government by Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer.

Classic revisited: The Prince by Machiavelli, tranlated by Tim Parks. Runner-up: Lila by Robert Pirsig. Special mention: The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad.

Classic discovered: A Passage to India  by E.M. Forster. Runner-up: I and Thou by Martin Buber (translated by Ronald Geiger Smith). Special mention: A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf.

History: A Thread of Years by John Lukacs. Runner-up: Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Empire by Alex Von Tunzelmann. Special mention: Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan

Travel: The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen. Runner-up: In Motion: The Experience of Travel by Tony Hiss. Special mention: A Time to Keep Silence by Patrick Leigh Fermor

Detection & Mystery: Swag by Elmore Leonard. Runner-up: Wolves Eat Dogs: An Arkady Rendo Mystery by Martin Cruz Smith. Special mention: The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing: From the Files of Vish Puri, Most Private Investigator by Tarquin Hall

SF/Fantasy: 11.22.63 by Stephen King. Runner-up: Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood.

Nonfiction: Antifragility by Nassim N. Taleb. Runner-up: Why Priests? A Failed Tradition by Garry Wills. Special mention: David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell. 

Living Better: Bonds That Make Us Free:  Healing Our Relationships, Healing Ourselves by C. Terry Warner. Runner-up: Philosophy for Life and Other Dangerous Situations: Ancient Philosophy for Modern Life by Jules Evans. Special mention: Saving God: Religion After Idolatry by Mark Johnston (yes, again). 

And finally . . . . drum roll, please, 

The book of the year: A Time for Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor. Gorgeous and delightful.

Some left off the list that were mighty good books, but we have to keep some limit on it. Happy reading to all in 2014.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Thoughts on the Decay of American Political Institutions via Francis Fukuyama

Anyone who know and cares about the American political system should read "The Decay of American Political Institutions" by Francis Fukuyama published in The American Interest. That our political process has become dysfunctional in many arenas is widely accepted by both the general public and those who contemplate these issues. Fukuyama's article addresses the problems that he believes lie at the root of our malaise. The blame goes to both the Left and the Right. On one hand, we have de-politicized too much of our decision-making and turned these decisions over to the courts. Good for us lawyers, but not for effective, responsive government. Another problem arises from legalized bribery. Not the quid pro quo that we think of as traditional bribery, but the gift-giving norm taken to excessive heights. Money corrupts our system in new and inventive ways. 

Read the Fukuyama article for details. His conclusion is downbeat: we're trapped in a bad equilibrium that is perhaps endemic to democracy. However, I think that we can improve. We made significant changes in our political system during the Progressive Era, although not all of them have worked as intended, such as the California referendum fiascoes. I'm supporting Root Strikers (led by Lawrence Lessig) and Represent Us, both grass-roots efforts to limit the corruption caused by money flooding through our political system. A cure all? Of course not, but it could help, and it's worth the try. In any event, if you care about our political system and how it's broken, Fukuyama's article is a good place to start.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Dante in Love by A.N. Wilson

Along with Shakespeare, Dante is the greatest literary figure in the Western tradition. In an awards contest, I'd give Dante the award for the greatest single work, while Shakespeare would receive the award for the greatest lifetime body of work. Such conjectures and contests are always a bit of a silly exercise. Both are great. But Dante, even more than Shakespeare, is daunting. Shakespeare wrote at the end of the Northern Renaissance and therefore helps lay the very foundations of our modernity. Dante wrote at the apex of the Middle Ages, when Pope Boniface VIII faced off with Phillip the Fair, king of France, over the competing claims of Church and State in the medieval world. (My thanks to the late Professor Ralph Giesey and to TA Nancy Neefie for introducing me to medieval history in my first weeks as a freshman in my Western Civ class.)

Dante, St. Thomas Aquinas, and the great Gothic cathedrals loom as the great cultural icons of the Middle Ages. However, despite some interest in the Middle Ages, and a pretty good introduction to the high points of the Western tradition, I didn't approach Dante until my mid-30s, when I decided that this was a seminal work that I should engage. I thought—rightly so—that it requires a degree of maturity to appreciate. (I hope that for me, however, that it did not mark midway on my life’s journey!) Reading Dante is not easy. References to contemporary Italian politics, as well as Classical and Biblical figures, abound. The work is one of poetry, so we have the rich metaphors and other figures of speech that challenge those of us who live in our prosaic world. I don't recall what translation I read, but the experience proved worthwhile. I've been reading Dante and his commentators ever since. I now can add A.N. Wilson's Dante in Love to the list of fellow Dante readers—nay, enthusiasts—who have found the effort of the Commedia intriguing and enlightening. 

Wilson emphasizes that he is not a Dante scholar, but he's been reading and appreciating Dante since his late teens, and so he's a fellow enthusiast who also happens to be an experienced and talented writer of biography, history, and fiction. Wilson writes that he intends his book to serve as an introduction and appreciation of Dante’s life and works in all their complexity. He intends to provide a guide for others like him who aren’t scholars, but interested readers. He succeeds in his intention. This book is the best single volume appreciation of Dante and his masterwork (and some of his lesser works) that I've encountered. His title references his central premise: Dante is the poet and philosopher of love in all its manifestations. 

Love is the central trope of Dante’s work. Love, for Dante, can be quite worldly, following the cultural lead of the troubadours, or quite ethereal, as we see with Beatrice, the idealized neighbor from his youth. Or it can be the Lady in the Window, the personification of philosophy. (Wilson speculates that perhaps Dante’s wife Gemma, whom Dante never names in his work, is the Lady in the Window.) However, in addition to his love poetry, Dante is a political actor, and it’s his political connections that lead to his exile from Florence. The treachery and confusion of Italian politics didn’t begin with the fellow Florentine Machiavelli and the Renaissance; the turmoil was rampant in Dante’s time, with Popes, Emperors, and city-states vying for political supremacy. Thus, to understand Dante, one must attempt grasp both human and divine love as well as Italian politics. It can seem daunting, but Wilson’s book helps answer the challenge.  

We can—and perhaps should—spend a lifetime reading and studying Dante. We could do much worse with our time. But whether you’re making a passing acquaintance or you decide to dive in headfirst, Wilson can serve as a personal Virgil to help you along the way. Indeed, as Wilson is quick to point out, there are many such guides, but his may have the widest scope and easiest access of any that I’ve encountered. 

Pick up Dante, read, and remember that you’re trying to understand “the Love that moves the sun and other stars”.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A Time for Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor

In December 1933, a young Brit picked up a freighter to Holland from London to begin a walk across Europe to Constantinople (Istanbul). He'd knocked about in school, never quite fitting into to the routine, although clever and widely read. He held no express goal for this journey except to complete it. After a brief stint traversing Holland, he crossed into Germany and began trekking up the Rhine Valley. After achieving southern Germany, he turned east, picking up the Danube, following the river’s course into Czechoslovakia. He concludes this portion of his journey at a bridge crossing from Czechoslovakia into Hungary. It will take him until January 1935 to reach his goal of Constantinople and a lifetime to complete the three volumes that recount his journey. The final installment, The Broken Road: From the Iron Gates to Mount Athos won’t be published in the U.S. until March 2014.

Three traits make this book so impressive. The journey across Europe, poised roughly midway between its two great 20th century cataclysms, puts the reader in a time machine with young “Paddy”. Fermor begins his youthful journey in the year that Hitler came to power, and he encounters Brown Shirts in beer halls and an exuberant thug who’s sloughed off his Communist trappings—physical and mental— to dive headlong into the Nazi movement. As Fermor journeys forward towards his destination, he moves backward in time. He sleeps under the open stars, in barns, in taverns, in hostels, in homes, and in castles. Fermor's youth and charm seem to provide an open sesame to ordinary folk, to the middle class, and to the fading aristocracy. He develops a web of connections among the well-to-do that opens doors as he travels into the next town or castle. He moves from pauper to prince and back with elegant ease. He deftly portrays the characters and scenes that he encounters, often providing digressions on history, flora and fauna, and landscape as he makes his way. A brief side journey to Prague elicits a short foray into the Defenestration of Prague. 

The second factor that adds luster to this work arises from the fact that he wrote this first installment over 40 years after his journey. Invited to write a magazine article about the virtues of walking, Fermor instead wrote this book (published in 1977). Thus, except from some brief excerpts taken directly from his journal, we have the work of a mature, worldly, and erudite man reconstructing his adventures as a very young man. The exuberance of youth mixes with the perspective of age, although the narrative is uninterrupted and of a single voice. We meet two selves speaking through one voice.  

Finally, Fermor's prose exceeds poetry in its beauty and grace. Fermor's work supports my contention that prose can exceed poetry in its beauty, fueled by more extended metaphors, descriptions, and narratives—if penned by the hand of a master such as Fermor. Poetry mimics music in its fleeting melody and open suggestions. Prose, like painting, is more plastic and invites detailed consideration, revealing nuances of meaning as the text retards time of allow a deeper contemplation of the scene created. Others, like William Dalrymple, praise Fermor as one ofthe great English prose-stylists. I concur. Fermor paints verbal portraits and landscapes that rival a Turner or Constable in beauty. 

My brief review does not indicate a lack of merit or enthusiasm for this book; quite the opposite, my ability is inadequate to do real justice to this gem. I’ll leave you with a quote from a passage of the book to provide you a better representation of what Fermor accomplishes with his prose. The setting is at the end of the book, as Fermor stands on the bridge over the Danube between Czechoslovakia and Hungary on Holy Saturday evening: 

I too heard the change in the bells and the croaking and the solitary owl’s note. But it was getting too dim to descry a figure, let alone a struck match, at the windows of the Archbishopric. A little earlier, sunset had kindled them as if the Palace were on fire. Now the sulphur, the crocus, the bright pink and the crimson had left the panes and drained away from the touzled but still unmoving cirrus they had reflected. But the river, paler still by contrast with the sombre merging of the woods , had lightened to a milky hue . A jade-green radiance had not yet abandoned the sky. The air itself, the branches, the flag-leaves, the willow -herb and the rushes were held for a space, before the unifying shadows should dissolve them, in a vernal and marvellous light like the bloom on a greengage. Low on the flood and almost immaterialized by this luminous moment, a heron sculled upstream, detectable mainly by sound and by the darker and slowly dissolving rings that the tips of its flight-feathers left on the water. A collusion of shadows had begun and soon only the lighter colour of the river would survive. Downstream in the dark, meanwhile, there was no hint of the full moon that would transform the scene later on. No-one else was left on the bridge and the few on the quay were all hastening the same way. Prised loose from the balustrade at last by a more compelling note from the belfries, I hastened to follow. I didn’t want to be late.

Fermor, Patrick Leigh (2010-10-10). A Time of Gifts (Kindle Locations 4710-4721). John Murray. Kindle Edition.

And continue I shall with Between the Woods and the Water: On Foot to Constantinople from the Middle Danube to the Iron Gates, the next installment. As a little added bonus, I’m very much looking forward to hearing his biographer, Artemis Cooper, speak @ #JLF about her Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure published in 2013.