The L Mag Questionnaire for Writer Types: Tom Hopkins

by |
04/26/2011 12:15 PM |


Once upon a time, the L’s Summer Fiction Issue published “A Note About This Business with the Bear,” a short story, by Thomas Hopkins, about marriage, tenure, tapas, and the things we hide in our vaginas. Tonight, Tom Hopkins will appear at 2A, in the East Village, for the inaugural edition of the 2A Reading series (so new it doesn’t even have a website yet). It starts at 8pm in the upstairs bar, and also features Benjamin Hale, among others.

For our readers who may not be familiar with your work, what’s the most accurate thing someone else has said about it?
My thesis advisor at NYU once told me that he felt like I was “working the same side of the street” as George Saunders and Aimee Bender. Which I worry might make all three of us women of the night—which isn’t exactly the career I was aiming for. Sorry, Dad!

Mark Asch once wrote something awesome about my stories in an L Mag blog post—that they were like a “George Saunders sherbet,” or a “Steven Millhauser sangria,” or maybe a “Donald Barthelme hamburger eaten in haste, followed by a Samuel Beckett Red Bull martini”—something combining the name of a writer we both admire plus a delicious food and/or alcoholic beverage?—but Google is not helping me track this down. [I’m pretty sure it was “hors d’oeuvre-sized George Saunders,” but I wouldn’t swear to it. Food metaphors! —Ed.]

What have you read/watched/listened to/looked at/ate recently that will permanently change our readers’ lives for the better?
That depends—do you mean their lives will be changed for the better because it’s something that I personally read/watched/listened to/looked at/ate recently, or because, in response to my ecstatic urging, they themselves will leave their desks and seek out this amazing thing, wherever it might be purchased in the world?

If the former, that would have to be this incredibly beautiful edible book-record I recently purchased. It takes the concept of an environmentally sound jewel case and really goes the whole nine yards with it: first, you admire the gorgeousness of the object (it has the visual qualities, for lack of any better comparison, of a soft shimmery rainbow-kitten-unicorn); then you put the compact-disc-player-playable portion of the object into your compact disc player, and listen to one of the saddest songs you’ve ever heard, while reading one of the most uplifting stories you’ve ever read in the liner notes.

Then you eat the whole thing, and it turns you into a hundred-foot-tall super-being, capable of defending truth and freedom.

So that’s how I’ve made your readers’ lives better—I’ve been a hundred feet tall, walking around, defending truth and freedom.

But now that I think about it, I guess your readers’ lives would be improved if they, too, went out and got themselves this beautiful edible book-record.

Whose ghostwritten celebrity tell-all (or novel) would you sprint to the store to buy (along with a copy of The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius so that the checkout clerk doesn’t look at you screwy)?
Philip Roth.

Have you ever been a Starving Artist, and did it make you brilliant, or just hungry?
I’ve been a mildly overweight artist with too much credit card debt; does that count?

What would you characterize as an ideal interaction with a reader?
One involving a span of at least a hundred years between the writing and the reading, where the writing still makes sense. This is why I’m currently working on a roman à clef about the fashion industry, tentatively titled Oh, Snap! She Did NOT Just Tweet That About My Fly New Manolo Blahniks!

Have you ever written anything that you’d like to take back?
Boy howdy, I sure have.