Interview with Jess Row

1.   What are 5 things you would want to find?

  1. The president's tax returns.

  2. Bruno Schulz's lost novel. It disappeared when he was murdered by a German commander during World War II.

  3. The lost recordings of a session Miles Davis played with Jimi Hendrix in 1969.

  4. J.D. Salinger's unpublished fiction. (Supposedly it will be published soon, so this one may expire).

  5. This may sound embarrassing, but more photos of myself as a child. We moved around a lot when I was young, and my parents weren't great photographers, so there's not much to choose from.

 2.   What are 5 things you would want to hide?

 A much harder question, because I really don't believe in hiding things (unless it's in the context of a game like this one, of course). I'm very suspicious of secrecy of any kind, although temporary secrecy of course is necessary to protect the feelings of vulnerable people in some situations. I don't know what to say other than to quote D.W. Winnicott: "It is a joy to hide, but a disaster not to be found."

3.   If you could choose anywhere in the world for your book to be hidden, where would it be?

I think writers always want their book to be in every library in the world, so that would be my answer. I remember all the magical times I've found a book I'd never known about before in a library—especially Sterling Library at Yale, where I was an undergrad. Sterling is in a gothic building that's shadowy and mysterious by nature, and it was amazing to discover things in those stacks. And then there's also the Beinecke Library, also at Yale, one of the beautiful buildings in the world. That's where I once got to see the original manuscripts of Long Day's Journey Into Night for a project I was working on. That's a kind of wonderful hiddenness. 

4.   If you could find any book, which would it be and why? 

I think it would be the Bruno Schulz novel I referred to above. It's possible that it still exists somewhere, though very unlikely, and it would be (I'm almost certain) a masterpiece of 20th century fiction like nothing else.

5.   Who would you want to find your book (another author, celebrity, et cetera)?

This is a sad answer, because I was hoping that this book in particular, White Flights, would make its way to Toni Morrison, but she died the day it was published. Morrison was a huge influence on the book, and in some ways it's explicitly a tribute to her 1992 lectures on whiteness and American literature, Playing in the Dark. .


Photo:  John Midgley

Photo: John Midgley

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