Re-visiting Marine Park with Mark Chiusano


Memoir / Friday, February 2nd, 2018

Marine Park is one of those south Brooklyn neighborhoods that often gets overlooked. In his debut collection “Marine Park,” Mark Chiusano immortalized the spirit and the cast of characters that inhabit Brooklyn’s special southeastern marshland.

“Marine Park,” Mark Chiusano’s debut story collection, immortalizes the spirit of Brooklyn’s marshland. Courtesy of Penguin Random House

While the collection was released in 2014, the street-smart and buoyant stories in 23-year-old Mark Chiusano’s “Marine Park” possess something permanent at their core. Chiusano, who graduated from Harvard, has delivered a wise and deeply intimate collection, one whose stories whole-heartedly delve into family, boyhood, athletics, drugs, love and all the weird quirks of growing up in a tight-knit community on the fringe of New York City.

Barred off by various rundown avenues, Kings Highway and the salt marshes where locals don’t step foot, sits Marine Park. It isn’t exactly New York City or even really Brooklyn. Seemingly it’s an inescapable suburban void. Yet in Chiusano, Marine Park has found its literary chronicler. In these interlinked stories readers stagger through this working-class neighborhood with a motley cast — a bike-riding drug dealer, a jock-turned-banker, enigmatic and strange neighbors of every age, and unlikely heroes. But the pulse of this collection is that of quiet Lorris and his older brother Jamison — two boys who grow up on these blocks, gradually emerging from the no-man’s-land of youth. Whether encountering a mysterious neighbor while shoveling snow after a big storm, being in a car accident while illegally driving, or smoking weed on the porch of a shuttered-up estate, Lorris and Jamison absorb the world around them — its quiet reverberations, its dark contours, the moments that bloom, suddenly, into tragedy.

These carefully crafted stories explore the strange ways in which we experience the world, as it is and as it could be. Chiusano refuses to turn away from the place felt from within; no matter how you define it — a large city, a dimly lit street, an average-sized house, an imperfect family — “Marine Park” has an unfaltering fidelity to the notion of home. It is reminiscent of Junot Díaz’s “Drown,” Stuart Dybek’s “The Coast of Chicago,” and Russell Banks’ “Trailerpark.”

Mark Chiusano courtesy of Penguin Random House

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