|photo: Charlotte Alter
Mark Chiusano is the author of Marine Park (Penguin, July 29, 2014), a collection of stories. His fiction and essays have appeared in Guernica, Narrative magazine, Salon, the Harvard Review, Tin House, FiveChapters and the Paris Review, among other places. He was born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., educated at Harvard College and is now an assistant editor at Vintage Books.
On your nightstand now:
I've been reading Robert A. Caro's unbelievably authoritative The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York. When you're reading it, you have the sense that you're learning everything there is to know about the city of New York in one perfect book. I'm noticing some uncomfortable similarities between Moses and me, such as a pathological love of swimming and unmitigated power over the legislature of New York State. Haruki Murakami's After Dark is up next, although I work at a publishing house and am always finding (and squirrelling away) new books for the nightstand.
Favorite book when you were a child:
Other than Jude Watson's entire Star Wars: Jedi Apprentice series? (To say the least of the Harry Potter books?) As a kid I loved the strange Roald Dahl book The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More, which includes the story of a yogi in India who has natural psychic powers--which in turn led me to W. Somerset Maugham's strange and somewhat magical The Razor's Edge. At age 11, I was vaguely convinced that I was on the verge of getting a letter by owl post about acceptance to Hogwarts, but that's another story. I would be remiss if I didn't mention Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, which has blurred my perception of both Connecticut and medieval history ever since.
Your top five authors:
In alphabetical order (and sticking with fiction), Roberto Bolaño, Willa Cather, Junot Díaz, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. But that's mostly a "top reread" list.
Book you've faked reading:
Working at a publishing house, there's a real danger that you could get caught doing something like this. Your bosses have read far more than you have. That being said, my favorite ploy to beg off the embarrassing admission of ignorance is, "I think I've read some of her/his stories."
Book you're an evangelist for:
First, everything that Willa Cather has written. The rap against her, I suppose, is that she's "dry," but that's totally not true--Cather wrote better adventure and origin stories for the American psyche than anyone else. Second, Neil Sheehan's masterpiece on the Vietnam War, A Bright Shining Lie, which has one of the best nonfiction twists I've ever seen in an 800-page book, and is also a devastating warning for American conflicts up to and including the present.
Book you've bought for the cover:
The Last Best League by Jim Collins, on a season with the Cape Cod Baseball League. The cover is a night scene on a baseball field with two players high-fiving and is romantic as all hell.
Book that changed your life:
I think Junot Díaz's story collection Drown, which I read in high school when the best player on our baseball team leant me his copy on a spring-training trip to Florida. I was completely blown away. I think we lost every game that year, which also convinced me that I might try for the writing route as opposed to the MLB one.
Favorite line from a book:
Michael Chabon's description of summer in The Mysteries of Pittsburgh: "Then [my father] asked me what my plans were for the summer, and in the flush of some strong emotion or other I said, more less: It's the beginning of the summer and I'm standing in the lobby of a thousand-story grand-hotel, where a bank of elevators a mile long and an endless red row of monkey attendants in gold braid wait to carry me up, up, up through the suites of moguls, of spies, and of starlets, to rush me straight to the zeppelin mooring at the art deco summit, where they keep the huge dirigible of August tied up and bobbing in the high winds."
Which character you most relate to:
The narrator from Jay McInerney's Bright Lights, Big City, without the late nights.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (for the flight from Thornfield), or A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again by David Foster Wallace. I could read that cruise-ship essay in particular again and again.