Monday, November 2, 2020


Jessica Gross's writing has appeared in The Los Angeles Review of Books, The New York Times Magazine, and The Paris Review Daily, among other places. She holds an MFA in fiction from The New School, a Master's degree in cultural reporting and criticism from New York University and a Bachelor's in anthropology from Princeton University. She has received fellowships in fiction from the Yiddish Book Center (2017) and the 14th Street Y (2015-16), where she also served as editor of the LABA Journal. She currently teaches writing at Eugene Lang College at The New School.

Gross applied the Page 69 Test to Hysteria, her first novel, and reported the following:
Here, in part, is what appears on page 69 of Hysteria:
I rifled through my mother’s clothing. My frame was similar to hers, but a less comely version, as if someone had made a copy of her in a great hurry and it had come out pixilated and lumpen. Her clothes fit me poorly, the almost of them highlighting just how much better they looked on her. I chose a pair of black slacks that hung off her hips like a waterfall. On me they gaped in awkward places, looked like dress-up, nothing like real glamour. I tucked my shirt in. I wanted to leave. I wanted to climb out my parents’ bedroom window. I wanted to go back to Pilz Bar. I wanted the bartender to watch over me while I napped, so I could sleep in peace knowing I was safe. Could I go back to the bar and ask to just sleep for a bit, ask him to sit in a chair while I closed my eyes? Would he ask me what I’d been up to since we’d met, where I had been? I wondered what he’d say about Sam, about him pulling my hair, about harder! Harder! I wondered what he’d say about Langham. The thought of telling him made me nauseated, my throat tightening around the feeling—but there was relief there, too, that someone might know. Maybe he knew already.
When I received the instructions for this test, I was skeptical, but page 69 gives a remarkably accurate snapshot of the novel! Holy cow. So much of Hysteria is about my narrator's relationship with her parents: where it went wrong; what she craves but cannot attain. It's also about her psyche, which is full of shame and self-loathing, and about the ways in which she thwarts her own need for connection and love. This passage gives a great sense of the narrator's perseveration (her past actions replay in her mind on a loop, haunting and taunting her) and of the novel's intense, desperate, frantic tone.
Visit Jessica Gross's website.

--Marshal Zeringue