I first met Teju Cole under a tree strung with white lights. It was six years ago, at a book party in lower Manhattan, at the apartment of someone fortunate enough to have a backyard. All around us were fancy literary types — people with names like Salman, and Francine, and Jay. Both Teju and I, as I recall it, felt somewhat ill at ease. His first novel, “Open City,” had yet to come out, and he said he felt like a nobody. I had only recently been made an assigning editor at The New York Times Book Review, and I, too, felt like a nobody. Teju told me he had trained as an art historian. We talked about art and books, and agreed we should catch some music together in Brooklyn someday. Several months later, in a lengthy review in The New Yorker, James Wood wrote that “Open City” was a “beautiful, subtle, and, finally, original novel.” Numerous other accolades accrued. Teju and I never connected to go hear music — though I did entice him to write a review for me.