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Kara Walker’s Favorite Literary Villain Is Scarlett O’Hara

What books are on your night stand?

A Scanner Darkly,” Philip K. Dick; “Trust,” Hernan Diaz.

Describe your ideal reading experience (when, where, what, how).

I have trouble finding time actually, because my work requires me to use my hands and pay attention to other pieces of paper. It took me a while to get into audiobooks, but that format really helped me to stay invested in stories while working with my hands. Ideally I’m in my studio making something with a well-read (well-articulated?) book in my ears.

What’s the last great book you read?

So loaded! Lots of books are great. I listened to William Gibson’s “Neuromancer” last summer because I had never gotten around to reading it when I should have. I see why and how it has informed a huge component of contemporary culture. I also just finished “The Fraud,” by Zadie Smith. She takes some big literary swings there. Loved it.

What’s the most interesting thing you learned from a book recently?

How to skin a man alive.

From working on the new book?

No — ha-ha, that was from Murakami, “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.” I decided to relisten to the audiobook recently because my friend June Leaf reminded me about the skinning part.

Describe your collaboration with Jamaica Kincaid. Did the text or the images come first?

Jamaica proposed the book to me. She had it in mind for a long time and she thought I would make a good illustrator. She would send me her preliminary entries for a letter of the alphabet, in non-alphabetical order, mind you, and I would send her some sketches or, as often as not, a finished piece. My goal was to try and be spontaneous. There are a lot of different looks for the drawings, partly a result of her loving every doodle I made.

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