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My Favorite Place: Paul Auster

Paul Auster's favorite place: Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.

Photo: Jessica Sample

“A couple of years ago I was thinking of setting a new novel in Ssunset Park, Brooklyn, and in walking around the neighborhood, I visited Green-Wood Cemetery for the first time. In fact, maybe it was the cemetery that convinced me to write the novel. I had known about Green-Wood for years—had driven by it scores of times—but I had no idea that I was passing one of the most remarkable places in all of New York City. It’s so big, so bursting with history, and to meander among the trees and plantings is to leave the city behind. Before Central Park was even dreamed of, families would come to Green-Wood on weekends. It’s a forgotten corner, an eerie, beautiful place.

“The vast grounds, sculptures, and 19th-century Greek and Moorish Revival architecture are amazing, but equally amazing are the people buried there: everyone from pharmaceutical pioneers such as Squibb and Pfizer to much of the Tiffany family, F.A.O. Schwarz, Leonard Bernstein, Jean-Michel Basquiat.

“My book Sunset Park is about a group of young people who become squatters in a wooden house across from the cemetery. One character, a bit of a lost soul, spends a lot of time wandering Green-Wood with his camera. He marvels at the paths and pyramids, and muses, ‘Where else but in Green-Wood Cemetery could he have learned that the real last name of Frank Morgan, the actor who played the Wizard of Oz, was Wuppermann?’ To think of the Wizard of Oz lying there is very moving to me.”

Paul Auster’s new novel, Sunset Park (Holt; $25), is in bookstores now.

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