J.K. Rowling honored for providing a generation of readers a ‘gateway to loving books for life’

The society crowd went to the ballet for American Ballet Theatre’s spring gala. The foodies were at Le Bernardin to celebrate the publication of Eric Ripert’s new memoir “32 Yolks.” Tech geeks ogled Kim Kardashian and Jessica Alba at Cipriani Wall Street for the 20th annual Webby awards. Theater people supported the Manhattan Theater Club at Cipriani in Midtown. TV folks were out partying into the wee hours because it’s the Upfronts.

Which basically leaves us with the bookworms.

Those who weren’t home curled up on the couch with a novel were at the Museum of Natural History on Monday for the Pen Literary Gala.

The big selling point here—besides the opportunity to schmooze with a lot of writers, agents, publishers and editors over pan seared Poussin and a Beluga lentil salad—was that J.K. Rowling was being honored. That certainly explained the presence of several children who aren’t typical guests at black-tie affairs on a school night. Even Warner Bros. chief executive officer Kevin Tsujihara came to show his support.

Sarah Jessica Parker got the plum pole position of introducing Ms. Rowling, who was recognized not just for her various literary contributions but also her humanitarian efforts.

“I feel like a proxy for every mother and child,” said Ms. Parker, who singled the author out for not only the 450 million or so Harry Potter novels sold world-wide, but, more significantly, for providing “an entire generation of readers” with a “gateway to loving books for life.”

“I’m blushing,” said Ms. Rowling, who used the platform to extol the virtues of free speech, not to mention a few anti-Donald Trump sentiments.

Other honorees of the evening included Michael Pietsch, the CEO of Hachette Book Group; Lee-Anne Walters and Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, who, together, helped expose the water crisis in Flint, Mich.; and Ahmed Naji, an imprisoned writer in Egypt.

“In a different life, he’d be living in Bushwick,” said Pen’s executive director Suzanne Nossel, whose closing remarks were labeled a “call to action” in the program.

Ms. Nossel asked all the guests, including B.J. Novak, Walter Mosley, Donna Tartt, Gay Talese, Salman Rushdie and A.M. Homes, to write short notes to Mr. Naji using the black markers and paper on the tables to send to him in a show of the organization’s support.

It was a long program, and, if anything, it would have been nice to have more time to chat among the intellectuals than listen to speeches. But the evening also has another function, as a kind of rally for the book industry.

“I love reading about the history of publishing,” said Mr. Pietsch, because when you do you find out that “publishers have always thought they were just about to perish.”

And you can’t discount a party where even Martin Amis goes home with a few books by Ms. Rowling in a new black-and-white Hachette tote bag.

With a little wear and tear, it’ll look great in Bushwick.