Yesterday J and I went to the JFK Library to see Teju Cole accept this year’s PEN/Hemingway Award for his acclaimed debut novel, Open City. J and I had visited the JFK Library in September, 2007: a brilliantly blue day that inspired a blog post and two sets of photos. Re-visiting the JFK Library on a chilly, overcast day to watch a long-time friend receive a prestigious award seemed somehow fitting: a reunion with old friends in a familiar place.
J and I walked to the JFK Library from the T station about a mile away, approaching the building from the harbor, where where it looms as a huge, glass-encased structure rising above a brushy bank of phragmites. This is, perhaps, how architect I.M. Pei envisioned the site: a spectacle arising on the fringe between land and sea. Once J and I were inside the building, we met up with our friends Leslee and D, settling into our seats toward the back of the room and then waving to Teju and his wife, K, as they made their way to their seats of honor in the front.
The ceremony itself was lovely, with Teju and a handful of finalists accepting prizes, and Teju and Yannick Murphy, winner of the Winship/PEN New England Award, reading briefly from their novels. After both awards and congratulations had been bestowed upon the winners, there was a reception in the library’s main pavilion–a huge glass-walled room overlooking the harbor–where J, Leslee, D and I enjoyed a belated lunch of cheese, crackers, and finger sandwiches while spending time with Teju and K, exchanging hugs and taking pictures all around.
These are some of the true pleasures in life: an afternoon’s walk by the sea, a dip into good literature, a chance to see a good friend honored, a bit of food and drink to satisfy the stomach, and a time to catch up with old friends. It was a joyous occasion, and a happy day: an award well-earned, bestowed in a beautiful place and celebrated among friends.
Click here for a brief photo set from the occasion. Enjoy!