The Questionnaire: Jess Row

March 15, 2013   •   By The Questionnaire

How do you get up in the morning?

I’m a big fan of PG Tips.


Do you succumb to nostalgia?

Once when I was in Paris I tried to find a famous bookstore on the Left Bank, searched for it online, and came across a news story (in French) saying it had closed, and now the Left Bank was only a “place of memory.” The world is full of places of memory to me.


Do you write long and cut, or short and backfill?



How do you feel about your Wikipedia entry?

I just hope it’s accurate and often updated.


Lunch with any three people who ever lived; who do you invite?

Three Zen masters: Zhaozhou, Dogen, and Ko Bong. (Sorry. I know this is an annoying answer few people will understand. But it’s just true.)


Best piece of advice you ever received? 

From my first writing teacher, Lee K. Abbott: “Go to college, get the best education you possibly can, then worry about writing later.”


Disciplined or hot dog?



Have you ever been defeated by a genre?

I feel defeated by the idea of genre.


Which classic author would you like to see kicked out of the pantheon?

Not an author but a book: The Catcher in the Rye. We’d all be better off if it were never taught again. Substitute Franny and Zooey if you have to, but let’s see and hear the last of Mr. Caulfield.


Are you okay with blood?

As a parent of two small children, I’m pretty much an expert on bodily fluids and how to clean them up/treat them/get them out of sweaters.


Who is your imagined audience? Does it at all coincide with the real one?

There’s a line from a song by the band Sideshow I really love: “Where did all you shattered people — where’d you come from?”


What country would you want to be exiled in? 



What’s your favorite negative emotion?

I try not to play favorites.


Is your study neat, or, like John Muir’s, is your desk and floor covered in “lateral, medial, and terminal moraines”? 

It’s orderly but not neat or clean.


What is your go-to shoe?

Doc Martens. Oxblood color. There was a time when I was younger when I’d have been taking my life in my hands to wear red Doc Martens (because they were associated with certain skinhead gangs). Now they’re just comfortable, practical, and reassuring.


What's your poison? 



What's your problem?

No, what’s your problem?


Book you’re probably never going to write, but would kind of like to get around to? 

A book about the Black Hills of South Dakota, where my father’s family is from. My great-grandfather was friends with Calamity Jane.


What are you so afraid of?

Going unread, of course.


Do you require a high thread count?

Actually, high thread count sheets really freak me out. They’re too slick.


Who reads you first?  

Editors, usually.


Sexy and dangerous, or brilliant and kind?

To quote Liz Phair: “Obnoxious, funny, true, and mean.”


What character or story haunts you?

Rufus in James Baldwin’s Another Country. Actually, every character in Another Country.


Does plot matter?

Like representative accuracy, plot is one of the sensuous values of fiction that can’t be ignored. But there are all kinds of ways of thinking about plot and suspense and tension; plot doesn’t even necessarily require events in the way we normally imagine.


Does age matter?

Everything matters.


Do you prefer to write standing, or must you lie prone in a field of dandelions with a steno pad and a good pen? Or what?

That field of dandelions thing sounds like fun, but I prefer to write sitting at my desk at home. Could there be a more boring answer? I don’t even like writing in coffee shops.


Who is the author you'd most like to impersonate online?

Antonin Artaud.


Is there a literary community?

See the line from Sideshow above.


What’s the question or questions we should have asked, had we known?

Here are some questions all writers want to be asked:

“How are you going to spend the money we’re sending you?”

“Would you like some more wine?”

“How does it feel to be a genius?”

“Is it OK if we skip the Q&A?”