Princeton resident Jess Row’s second collection of stories, Nobody Ever Gets Lost (FiveChapters Books), due in early February, is no beach read, but in the very best sense. Throughout seven quiet but finely observed tales, characters of different ethnicities, ages and sensibilities rub up against fundamentalism, most of it religious, in the post 9/11 world.
Row’s characters form an unsettled and thoughtful cast. Here, for example, is the troubled girlfriend of a radical recalling her childhood in “Lives of the Saints”: “She’d been reading Gramsci and thinking about revolution, which in Maplewood was a ridiculous thing to do, a pimply suburban cliché, but here in the world of dull-lit classrooms and earnest young professors with unironic scarves and wet thrift-store boots drying on the radiator it was real, it was serious, shit, it was happening.”
Then there is Susan, of the title story, scanning the shelves in a New York City drug store, then contemplating a news story about two little girls in Paterson who have died in an elevator accident: “She wanders the aisles, wondering what she might be looking for. The merchandise seems distributed almost at random: shaving cream, laxatives, picture frames, men’s magazines. Have the employees run away? she wonders. Did they abandon this sinking ship? Crossed the Holland Tunnel like rats down the gangplank?”
Row, an associate professor of English at the College of New Jersey, is a rising star of the state’s literary scene. He was named one of the 20 Best Young American Novelists by Granta magazine, and is the author of The Train to Lo Wu, a story collection that was considered for the 2006 PEN/Hemingway Award. Nobody Ever Gets Lost cements his sterling reputation.Click here to leave a comment