Though Chiusano proves himself a skilled storyteller, connections to Marine Park limit rather than unite these stories. A...

MARINE PARK

STORIES

The 17 stories in Chiusano’s debut collection center on the people and events in a remote neighborhood of southeast Brooklyn.

Many of these stories feature family dramas and childhood memories with several recurring characters, most notably two brothers, Lorris and Jamison. Chiusano paints a vivid portrait of Marine Park, a strangely provincial portion of the city. An eccentric neighbor pets the children’s heads in “Palming,” the brothers ride the bus alone to buy Christmas presents in “Open Your Eyes,” and the same barber cuts residents' hair for years in “Haircut.” At their strongest, the stories uncover forgotten truths of youth, as when the narrator of “Air-Conditioning” remembers the “spring of people breaking their wrists.” But the quiet tales bleed into each other, and the scenes and characters soon feel too familiar. When Chiusano does break his established patterns, he finds varying levels of success. “Vincent and Aurora” opens with the routines of an older married couple but takes a surprising, action-packed twist that reads like a thriller and feels out of place. “Clean,” a similar misfit, follows the outbreak and spread of a strain of herpes among a group of friends in the 1970s. On the other end of the spectrum is “We Were Supposed,” a stylistic standout. The two-page story of run-on sentences is a litany of lost opportunities that builds a mosaic of a life unlived. “We were supposed to go see a movie, get coffee, return calls, kiss, be alone, share a meal together…” it begins. “Shatter the Trees and Blow Them Away” also benefits from deviating from the standard, traveling farthest from the titular setting. The story occurs in New Mexico at the testing facility for the atomic bomb during World War II. The love story that unfolds, while predictable, is told in stunning language and is a refreshing change from the typical themes of Chiusano’s work.        

Though Chiusano proves himself a skilled storyteller, connections to Marine Park limit rather than unite these stories. A reader begins to wish Chiusano, like his characters, could break free.

Pub Date: July 29, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-14-312460-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: May 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2014

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THE ELEPHANT VANISHES

STORIES

A seamless melding of Japanese cultural nuances with universal themes—in a virtuoso story collection from rising literary star Murakami (A Wild Sheep Chase, 1989; Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, 1991). These 15 pieces, some of which have appeared in The New Yorker and Playboy, are narrated by different characters who nonetheless share similar sensibilities and attitudes. At home within their own urban culture, they happily pick and choose from Western cultural artifacts as varied as Mozart tapes, spaghetti dinners, and Ralph Lauren polo shirts in a terrain not so much surreal as subtly out of kilter, and haunted by the big questions of death, courage, and love. In the title story, the narrator—who does p.r. for a kitchen-appliance maker and who feels that "things around [him] have lost their balance," that a "pragmatic approach" helps avoid complicated problems—is troubled by the inexplicable disappearance of a local elephant and his keeper. In another notable story, "Sleep," a young mother, unable to sleep, begins to question not only her marriage and her affection for her child, but death itself, which may mean "being eternally awake and staring into darkness." Stories like "TV People," in which a man's apartment is taken over by TV characters who "look as if they were reduced by photocopy, everything mechanically calibrated"; "Barn Burning," in which a man confesses to burning barns (it helps him keep his sense of moral balance); and "The Second Bakery Attack," in which a young married couple rob a McDonald's of 30 Big Macs in order to exorcise the sense of a "weird presence" in their lives—all exemplify Murakami's sense of the fragility of the ordinary world. Remarkable evocations of a postmodernist world, superficially indifferent but transformed by Murakami's talent into a place suffused with a yearning for meaning.

Pub Date: March 31, 1993

ISBN: 0679750533

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1993

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BEYOND THE GREAT SNOW MOUNTAINS

Superb stylist L’Amour returns (End of the Drive, 1997, etc.), albeit posthumously, with ten stories never seen before in book form—and narrated in his usual hard-edged, close-cropped sentences, jutting up from under fierce blue skies. This is the first of four collections of L’Amour material expected from Bantam, edited by his daughter Angelique, featuring an eclectic mix of early historicals and adventure stories set in China, on the high seas, and in the boxing ring, all drawing from the author’s exploits as a carnival barker and from his mysterious and sundry travels. During this period, L’Amour was trying to break away from being a writer only of westerns. Also included is something of an update on Angelique’s progress with her father’s biography: i.e., a stunningly varied list of her father’s acquaintances from around the world whom she’d like to contact for her research. Meanwhile, in the title story here, a missionary’s daughter who crashes in northern Asia during the early years of the Sino-Japanese War is taken captive by a nomadic leader and kept as his wife for 15 years, until his death. When a plane lands, she must choose between taking her teenaged son back to civilization or leaving him alone with the nomads. In “By the Waters of San Tadeo,” set on the southern coast of Chile, Julie Marrat, whose father has just perished, is trapped in San Esteban, a gold field surrounded by impassable mountains, with only one inlet available for anyone’s escape. “Meeting at Falmouth,” a historical, takes place in January 1794 during a dreadful Atlantic storm: “Volleys of rain rattled along the cobblestones like a scattering of broken teeth.” In this a notorious American, unnamed until the last paragraph, helps Talleyrand flee to America. A master storyteller only whets the appetite for his next three volumes.

Pub Date: May 11, 1999

ISBN: 0-553-10963-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1999

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