The New York Times

By the Book: Brian Selznick

AS A BOY, THE ILLUSTRATOR AND CO-AUTHOR, MOST RECENTLY, OF ‘BABY MONKEY, PRIVATE EYE’ PREFERRED STORIES ON SCREEN: ‘I USUALLY WATCHED THE MOVIES OF BOOKS I SHOULD HAVE READ.’

Q: What books are on your nightstand?

A: “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,” by Junot Díaz, which was given to me by my friend Lynnette Taylor, who is a sign language interpreter. She said I would love it after I told her how much I loved Vladimir Nabokov’s crazy novel “Pale Fire.” Also on my nightstand: “Sapiens,” by Yuval Noah Harari; “Tennessee Williams in Provincetown,” by David Kaplan, which I bought on my first visit to Provincetown this summer while at the wedding of two friends; “Nos Vacances,” by Blexbolex; and “There’s a Mystery There,” by Jonathan Cott, about Maurice Sendak, who was a friend and mentor to me.

Q: What’s the last great book you read?

A: Everything by Edith Wharton. I stumbled upon her novel “Summer,” which shocked me with its honesty about sex and power, and I spent an entire year trying to read every single book she wrote. I felt this weird kinship with Edith Wharton for some reason, as if I alone had discovered her, which I think is how we’re supposed to feel when we fall I watched all of his other films and read endless interviews with him, and I was intrigued by something I came across regarding the characters in “The Age of Innocence.” There was a discussion about how Wharton’s characters spoke in a social code that was as rigid and mysterious to outsiders as the code used by his Mafia characters. Nobody was able to say what they meant. It seems there really wasn’t that much of a difference between Scorsese’s “Goodfellas” and Edith Wharton’s characters, and maybe this is why so much of her work still feels incredibly visceral and modern.

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