Writer Paul Auster discusses his fascination with Green-Wood Cemetary.
“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.
His Morning Routine
“I always stop at La Bagel Delight (284 Seventh Ave., Brooklyn; 718/768-6107; lunch for two $16) and ask for a sandwich to go. It’s a wonderful crossroads for Brooklynites.”
More Than Dessert
“Sweet Melissa Patisserie (175 Seventh Ave., Brooklyn; 718/788-2700; lunch for two $17) is known for its pastries, but everything is good. The back garden is open all year.”
Best Brooklyn Tables
“The Venice-born owner of Al Di Là (248 Fifth Ave., Brooklyn; 718/636-8888; dinner for two $75), a terrific Italian spot, doesn’t take reservations, so you have to be willing to wait. Or try Rose Water (787 Union St., Brooklyn; 718/783-3800; dinner for two $60), an intelligently run place that uses local ingredients.”
A Literary Legacy
“The only remaining independent bookstore in Park Slope is the Community Bookstore (143 Seventh Ave., Brooklyn; 718/783-3075). The shop is a crucial part of my neighborhood.”
Al Di Là
Founded by the husband and wife team of Emiliano Coppa and Anna Klinger (the two actually met while she was traveling abroad in Italy), this small trattoria was one of the original restaurants that helped Brooklyn emerge as a dining destination. The corner building, installed along one of the Park Slope neighborhood’s primary arteries, still possesses its original exposed pressed-tin ceilings, and its mustard awnings can be spotted from a block away. A glass candle chandelier casts a warm glow over the rustic wood tables below, and exposed sections of weathered brick give the walls a bit of character. Chef Klinger’s Venetian menu emphasizes simple, time-tested execution and a heavy reliance on fresh organic ingredients, with signatures including red beet and ricotta ravioli as well as braised rabbit with black olives and polenta.