Legendary travel writer Jan Morris is making a very rare visit to the U.S. next week to appear in an onstage conversation with me in New York City on Wednesday, May 8. The Wales-based author of more than 30 books, ranging from the masterful essay collections “Journeys,” “Destinations,” and “Among the Cities” to such classics as “Pax Britannica,” “The World of Venice,” and “The Matter of Wales,” Morris is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a Commander of the Order of the British Empire. She is also the last surviving member of the expedition team that made the first successful ascent of Mount Everest 60 years ago this month. As fate would have it, Morris’s dispatch announcing the team’s success appeared in the London Times on the same day as Queen Elizabeth’s coronation, a life-changing tale she recounts in her book “Coronation Everest.”
Morris will be discussing that historic expedition in our conversation. For me the meeting is also an opportunity to honor and celebrate the entire life and work of one of the most engaging and influential travel prose stylists of our time. From her magisterial “Pax Britannica” trilogy to her groundbreaking on-the-road dispatches for Rolling Stone magazine to her poignant recent book “Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere,” Morris has profoundly inspired and affected me and virtually every other travel writer I know. As I once wrote for Salon, “Rereading her works, I remember how much I love her attention to offbeat details, her eye for emblematic characters, her gentle humor and pointed wit, her encyclopedic knowledge of history and art and the ongoing dance of research and apprehension, description and analysis that whirls through her writing. And, too, I love the way she approaches the world with a genuine sympathy, with an openness of mind and heart that allows her to penetrate past prejudices and preconceptions, to see the soul and spirit of a place.”Indeed, in the way she writes and in the way she moves through the world – in her life-enhancing enthusiasm and quickening curiosity, in the way she treats all sentient beings, humans and animals too, with a gentle dignity, in her humility, humor and wholehearted embrace of kindness as a universal ideal – she sets standards to which I aspire.
I’m extraordinarily excited to have this opportunity to talk with her onstage and I’d like to include you in the conversation. I hope you can come to the event at the New York Times Center at 7 p.m. on May 8. The evening is a benefit for the American Himalayan Foundation, and tickets can be purchased here: http://geoex2013morris-eorg.
And whether you can come or not, I’d like to ask you: What question would you like me to ask Jan Morris on May 8?