In Teju Cole’s Every Day Is For The Thief (2014), the narrator — like Cole, an American of Nigerian descent — visits Lagos for the first time in 15 years, and is somewhat surprised by what he feels there. “I have,” he writes, “taken into myself some of the assumptions of life in a Western democracy — certain ideas about legality, for instance, certain expectations of due process — and in that sense I have returned a stranger.”
Read that again, thinking about either Philadelphia or America as a whole, and see if you can’t relate. This is the kind of thing Cole brings to the fore over and again in his writing, with both clarity and feeling. Whether you’re an urbanist-at-heart drawn to his debut, Open City, or his many one-off non-fiction pieces, collected in the new Known And Strange Things. (Check out the preview above.) Across a quickly growing body of work, Cole is completely addictive on account of a sensibility that is both lyric and cynical equal measure. And as a current ad hoc photography curator for the NYT magazine, he is no joke, either. This lecture at the Penn Museum is sure to illuminate.
Teju Cole in conversation with Amardeep Singh, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 5:00pm—6:30pm. Harrison Auditorium, Penn Museum, 3260 South Street. Free with registration here.