Inside the strange mind of Stuart Ross, author of ‘Jenny in Corona’

Who is Stuart Ross? After reading his debut novel, Jenny in Corona, that’s what I wanted to know. Even Pulitzer Prize-finalist Rebecca Makkai said Ross “has one of the strangest minds [she’s] ever encountered.”

His novel is as funny as it is devastating. It follows Tyrone, a man with a multitude of problems including a girlfriend who is cheating on him and a father addicted to pills. It shouldn’t be a heartwarming novel, but something in Ross’s writing makes it so. He turns the awful into something bearable.

I decided to give Ross free rein with answering some questions to figure out what makes him tick. I hope to turn this into a reoccurring questionnaire much like the “Life of Books”

WHO are you?

I am Stuart Ross. UA, not EW, thanks for asking. My name means servant to English. 

WHAT inspired you to become a writer?

Dad would fly us to West Palm Beach on Marlon’s Eastern and there were all these frogs creeping up the lanai screens. I would read Updike listen to the frogs and compare the frog sounds to Updike’s sounds. Both animals are masters of the comma. They could have lived longer, my grandparents. All that shitty Florida health care. There’s something sinister to it.

WHEN did you come up with the idea for this book?

We were looking at our schoolyard, Justin’s exactly, and we were thinking: what the hell happened to us here. Betsy and I had been at the new MoMA that day hitting up a Johns target and I was thinking, what happened. My sister was there, often she wasn’t, and I must have assumed some of her resolve. Now these environments are a product of me. 

WHERE is your favorite place to write? 

Right now my candle from EP is this rich yellow hue that would look great on Alan Alda. I like the morning because unless Jacks pukes, we’re both alone. Rarely listening to music, but lately listening to the raggedy piano hymns of Joanna Sternberg

WHY do you write about the topics/themes you explore?

Words, identity, race, business, music, art, sex, desire, mama and papa, food, internet, an end to violence, America, literature. Not sure why. 

HOW did you handle the stress of writing, publishing, and promoting this book? 

I handle the stress of writing the way President Trump handles the stress of being himself. Also chatting with friends, shooting hoops in our alley, walking up and down Clark Street. 

Publishing. It’s largely a zero-sum game. I never know what “zero-sum game” means but I think it means my book = another’s not-book. And for that I mourn. Maybe you’re Moody thumb-twiddling on Runkle’s couch, and you’re still down about it. You know that thread in Abdurraqib’s Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to a Tribe Called Quest, about how it would behoove you to have a crew? ‘Tis true. Otherwise your only friend is pity. I dig what Canadian writer Derek Beaulieu puts out there around Publishing as Internet. Oh, Stein’s entire oeuvre is available as a single PDF? Well then. What is publishing? 

Promotion is backgammon. Maybe the next jackal knows. 

Adam Vitcavage is the founder of Debutiful. His interviews and criticism have also appeared in Electric Literature, The Millions, Paste Magazine, and more.

Visit Stuart Ross at his website and follow him on Twitter.

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