Last night, the PEN American Center, a writers’ organization defending free speech around the world, held its annual gala at the Museum of Natural History — its biggest benefit yet, and also its most controversial. A little over a week ago, six writers withdrew from the party over the group’s decision to honor Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical magazine whose staff was massacred in January by jihadists, on the grounds that its crude Muhammad-mocking drawings were offensive to marginalized Muslims. There’s since been a protest petition signed by 200 PEN members, reams of published debate, and, in the aftermath of a shooting in Texas on Sunday during a Muhammad-drawing contest, a massive increase in security. Before the ceremony, we photographed the literati and asked for — and received plenty of — their opinions on the fracas.
Photo: Lucas Michael