Category Archives: Publications

What I Remember Pub Day and Praise

What I Remember of My Love Affair with the Bird and Other Stories is available from the Cupboard Pamphlet as of today! You can buy a copy from their website for $10. The book is a collection of ten of my short-short stories, almost all of which were published in literary journals between 2007 and 2013. It’s 60 pages long, perfect bound, and has a gorgeous cover.

The Cupboard Pamphlet publishes marvelous work. I’m completely delighted and honored for these stories to be joining their catalog, and I’m grateful to Kelly Dulaney and Todd Seabrook for having selected it to be #43 in their quarterly series.

If you, like me, can’t get enough of the anthropomorphic marigold piano and its hibiscus background, you can enjoy the Cupboard Pamphlet’s tweets this past week, and the teaser images they’ve made based on the cover, from Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and today.

Finally, I’m also grateful to Chris Adrian, Jessica Anthony, Abbey Mei Otis, Matthew Sharpe, and Gary Shteyngart for their kind words about the book. You can read the following on the Cupboard Pamphlet’s book page, in addition to their amazing description of the book—I think my favorite two sentences are the last two: “So turn back the border. Your own country’s catastrophes will have to satisfy you”—but I’m going to share them here as well, below.

We’re still drowning in our own country’s uniquely catastrophic version of the world’s present catastrophe, which obviously makes it impossible to do any conventional book release things like in-person readings. But if we do anything like a Zoom reading—or if I come up with any ways in which this small book can do some small good in the world (Barthelme: “[A]rt’s project is fundamentally meliorative. The aim of meditating about the world is finally to change the world”)—then I’ll mention it here on this unpredictably, sporadically updated personal website.

But for now: blurbs.

Like Lydia Davis and Donald Barthelme had a really smart, really funny baby.
Chris Adrian, author of The Children’s Hospital

What I Remember of my Love Affair with the Bird is a brilliant flock of short-short stories. These hilarious, deadpan recollections and ruminations somehow transmogrify into incisive commentary on 21st century consciousness in just a few pages. Flawed, despairing first person narrators seeking hope abound, with revelations that dance on the head of a pin. I didn’t want this collection to end.
Jessica Anthony, author of Enter the Aardvark

What I Remember of my Love Affair with the Bird gives us stories like tiny and tumultuous countries to be traveled through, banished from, remembered with the ache of exile. Hopkins leaps effortlessly between the mundane indignities of life in our global present, and marvelous impossibilities; both are revealed as equally inexplicable and inescapable. The geopolitics of a whole nation is mapped onto a body, the body is doing its best, its best is not nearly enough. You can wait for weeks at the border checkpoint, you can apply for a special visa, you can throw yourself into the water, you can trade your life for a stranger’s, you can close the book but you can’t ever really leave.
Abbey Mei Otis, author of Alien Virus Love Disaster: Stories

Can flash fiction be political, as well as intimate, weird, melancholy, funny, philosophical, and evocative of a whole world? The answer, in this beautiful collection by Tom Hopkins, is a resounding yes.
Matthew Sharpe, author of The Sleeping Father and Jamestown

A brilliant and much needed antidote for our fearful times. This is flash fiction as it’s meant to be. Thoughtful, smart, provocative and oh so funny.
Gary Shteyngart, author of Lake Success and Super Sad True Love Story

Good News: a Cupboard Pamphlet Chapbook and Beyond

A landscape painting of the countryside, painted in the late nineteenth century.

1) What I Remember of My Love Affair with the Bird and Other Stories is on its way! It’s available for pre-order now; the book will be officially available starting on Friday.

I seem to only write updates here on this site semiannually these days, but I’ll write another post soon with more notes about the book and the lovely things some very smart people have had to say about it.

In the meantime, I also made a few updates to my publication history page. More on those changes, below.

2) A month ago, I finished writing the book I’ve been thinking of and referring to as The Years of Living Autobiographically: Book III. (Back in late March, I posted an excerpt: entries I’d written during the previous month, the month during which everything in the U.S. changed.)

Now my working titles for the three books are as follows. I’m worried that these may cross the line into affected and grandiose, but as of this writing, this is what I’m working with.

The Years of Living Autobiographically

Book One
Fly Away, Tiny Lazarus

Book Two
To Be Alive Should Be Enough

Book Three
An Origin Myth for the Stars

I feel like I have even less of an idea of how to pitch this than I did before. I imagine the final product looking something like One Hundred And Forty Five Stories In A Small Box, the beautiful box set of three story collections by Deb Olin Unferth, Sarah Manguso, and Dave Eggers. I imagine the books being right at home at a press that publishes “experimental books about death,” which is what this trilogy is, really. Or with a press that publishes, say, “work that extends or challenges the formal protocols of nonfiction.”

But since I haven’t found a book contest for Oulipian trilogies about death—not yet!—I’m guessing this will most likely come to fruition as a kind of secondary deal to the following:

3) I’m still looking for a home for Intercalated Days: A Novel. I’m still sending queries to agents, and as I wrote on my publication credits page, I’m also now querying small presses, and I’ve entered the novel in book contests.


4) Unrelated to writing news: the picture above is the afternoon sun falling on a nineteenth-century painting, lighting up a detail of the landscape; the structure caught in the light is a mill. The shape of the light, to my eye, looks like a speech bubble. Which feels like a metaphor for writing, or any new creative undertaking? In the sense that everything we do contains echoes of and indebtedness to everything that has come before. (Jean Rhys: “All of writing is a huge lake. There are great rivers that feed the lake, like Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. And there are trickles, like Jean Rhys. All that matters is feeding the lake. I don’t matter. The lake matters. You must keep feeding the lake.”)

5) Also unrelated—except that it’s related to everything in America, all the horrific and deadly unfairness and institutionalized cruelty and endemic sexism and racism, and also the nihilistic death cult that threatens to drag us all down with it in its petty, suicidal, revanchist fever dreams—is the Electoral College, the worst Confederate monument of them all. It should be abolished. (Previous notes on this subject on this site, over the past two decades: “The Electoral College!” from 12/4/2000, right before the disastrous Bush v. Gore decision, a short film which may or may not still be visible; “Possible Outcomes,” from 10/14/2004, a kind of speculative utopian fiction of how we might escape two never-ending wars, then both still so young; “13 December 2004; or, A Few Things I Know About the Electoral College from Reading Books,” which I posted 11/11/2004, and which is comprised of the things I could remember from the research I did to write the script to “The Electoral College!” video; “The Truth About the Electoral College,” which includes that script, and another attempt at making the Flash Player thing work. Sort of related, I guess, as one more speculative-comedic progressive-realpolitik fiction: “I’m with Senator Coco.” Back when we had some sense of how outlandish and combative American right-wing politics were becoming—the intellectual/strategic spawn of Lee Atwater and Newt Gingrich—but we still had no idea (or at least, I still had no idea) how bad things would eventually become.

The Way We Live Now; or, The Year of Living Autobiographically, Part III

From October 2011 to October 2012, I wrote The Year of Living Autobiographically; four years later, from October 2015 to October 2016, I wrote a kind of sequel, which for the nonce I’ve been calling The Year of Living Ignominiously. (As I wrote here and here, it’s on a back burner.) And right at the moment—eight years after the first project, four years after the second—I’m in the middle of writing what I guess will be the third part of a trilogy.

I’ve been telling my students in the past few weeks—in our last in-person classes, which all ended on Friday 3/13, and in a few test runs I’ve set up with my students using Zoom this past week—to observe the world around them as it changes, and to take notes. Social media can be a good way to stay in touch with friends, and it can be a good conduit for accurate and trustworthy news from reliable sources. But social media, I’ve tried to remind them (this is nothing new, obviously), can also be a firehose of rumors, and it can be a crutch—one that so thoroughly reinforces our performed, public selves, that we forget or neglect our private selves. Take private notes, I’ve said. Keep a diary, a journal, a notebook, James Comey–style contemporaneous notes, whatever you want to call it. Think Joan Didion’s “On Keeping a Notebook”; think Nora Ephron’s mom’s mantra that “everything is copy.”

Emily and I are trying to do good where and when we can; we’re trying to teach our students, and raise our sons, and be useful citizens if we can—of this town, this state, this nation.

And I’m trying to follow my own advice. In case you’re curious about what the work that might eventually be called something like The Years of Living Autobiographically: Book III is going to look like, here are the 21 entries I’ve written over the past few weeks. I’m following my same absurd self-dare as before: for one year, write one status update per day that’s precisely 420 characters long—no more, no fewer. (See previous posts on this: The Year of Living Autobiographically; Praise; More Praise.)  This time, though, for reasons that I can’t explain other than following instinct (and perhaps borrowing from my friend Jessica Anthony in her brilliant new novel Enter the Aardvark), it’s all in the second person.

Sat 29 Feb 2020
Do you want to see how I know there’s a hole in my dishwashing glove? you asked Emmett. Of course he did. You folded back the cuff, made a seal with your lips, inflated it with your breath. Then you gently squeezed, aimed a wobbly yellow pointer finger at Emmett’s nose. A small hole at the tip; enough to flood them with water, enough to pinpoint air. Toby needed to feel it as well. What a marvelously dad thing to do.

Sun 1 Mar 2020
“Why do we wear a kippah?” asked the rabbi. “Because it’s cool,” one girl said, to the rabbi’s delight. “Because you can,” said Toby. Emmett’s morah: “That’s my favorite answer so far.” “That’s a serious answer,” the rabbi said. “I don’t know if you even know how serious an answer that is.” It’s a reminder to be humble, she said. “I wear it to remind myself to be humble when I’m doing something that I think is holy.”

Mon 2 Mar 2020
An overheard fragment, a student’s phone conversation—”your arteries, your heart, a lot of pressure around your heart, so you can suffer complications from that. But I was on an Internet forum, and a lot of people were saying”—was she talking about COVID-19? Remember Rabbi Bunim: “Keep two pieces of paper in your pocket at all times. On one write, ‘I am a speck of dust.’ On the other, ‘The world was created for me.'”

Tue 3 Mar 2020
Your hands are dry from frequent washing. It’s tough, in these early days after the shortest month, to twist the knob to advance the date on your watch. A cold rain turned to steam as it hit the walkway by Warner. “Journey of the Magi”: a convert’s midrash on “We Three Kings”? Your students, unversed in Matthew. Rain at sunset; rainbow in the east; a tornado-yellow sky; then hail, gone before you could photograph it.

Wed 4 Mar 2020
Your friend, on leftist rage: “The horse you ride to victory—you don’t keep stabbing it in the eyes.” Later, you asked your students if they were doing okay, or afraid—you meant COVID-19—and one mentioned Biden. What did she mean? Biden has dementia, she said. She learned this on Twitter; it’s an open secret. She’d been proud to cast her first vote for Clinton, even though, your student said, she’s a “lizard person.”

Thu 5 Mar 2020
Your student, a “Bernie bro,” said she had you pegged as a “Warren bro.” Senator Warren, today: “If you say, yeah, there was sexism in this race, everyone says, ‘whiner.’ And if you say, no, there was no sexism, about a bazillion women think, what planet do you live on.” You want not to cry; you want cookies for dinner; you want to torch the subliminal civilization-scale erasure of the very idea of matriarchal power.

Fri 6 Mar 2020
Last night at the Feve, Emily introduced you to one of her students. He reached out to shake your hand. Wait, you said, let’s practice for Coronavirus. “Do you have it?” he said, his voice a bit panicked. No, no, you said, but we need to practice social distancing, like Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s suggestion to put one’s hands over one’s heart in greeting. He liked this idea; this was what you both did.

Sat 7 Mar 2020
In office hours, a student yawned almost every time you spoke. He also picked his nose. As he got up to leave, he reached out to shake your hand. Wait, you said, let’s practice alternatives. There’s putting your hands over your heart, and then there’s this: you held up the priestly blessing. He didn’t recognize it as Jewish, but Vulcan. “Live long and prosper,” he said, “I like it.” “Live long and prosper,” you said.

Sun 8 Mar 2020
As she introduced the Purim Shpiel, the rabbi encouraged everyone to eschew shaking hands. Later, a fellow Hebrew school dad reached out to shake yours. You proffered an elbow. He bumped it begrudgingly. “You must be from Oberlin,” he said, with a dismissive smile. Meaning, presumably, that taking science seriously requires leftist inculcation. L’esprit de l’escalier still hasn’t arrived. “It’s true, I am,” you said.

Mon 9 Mar 2020
Part of Emmett’s homework: “Explain how the unfair laws described in the introduction of the book had an effect on Thurgood Marshall’s life.” His answer: “He was soper mad at the white peapole ho did not alaw brown pepole to go to thar restrants.” True. Fair enough. COVID-19 is now in Ohio. Three cases, Cuyahoga County. Not yet a red dot on the Johns Hopkins University map. The governor declared a state of emergency.

Tue 10 Mar 2020
Outside your office, a coughing fit, then hawked-up sputum, then quiet. The U.S. has 971 confirmed cases. You sent Emily a Crimson lede: “Harvard Moves Classes Online, Asks Students Not to Return After Spring Break In Response to Coronavirus.” “Holy shit,” she replied. “Crap.” The list of Ivies charting the same course grows: Princeton, Yale, more. Then an emergency confab, and Oberlin, after break, will follow suit.

Wed 11 Mar 2020
Your children’s bus driver says the schools might close. Someone’s been swiping hand sanitizer dispensers from Peters Hall, the building manager said. Probably selling them on the black market, he joked. Word of mouth: hoarding toilet paper; student riots in Dayton; a Facebook group for unsanctioned spring breaks. The cause of your sacroiliac pain, your chiropractor determined, is your unconscious fear of turning 50.

Thu 12 Mar 2020
Cuomo: Broadway ordered dark. DeWine: a three-week “extended spring break” for all Ohio schoolchildren, starting next Tuesday; Oberlin students gone by then too. Tom Hanks infected; baseball delayed; Disneyland closed. One receptionist at your doctor’s office: “We’re gonna have to start making our own toilet paper!” The other receptionist: “Ew.” Driving home, a cheddar-cheese Combos bag, empty, scuttling in the wind.

Fri 13 Mar 2020
You stopped by the Boys & Girls Club, looking for Toby. They’re also shutting down. Our lives are upended, “but I really think it’s the right decision,” you said. “It absolutely is the right decision!” said one of the teachers, wiping down tables. “We gotta stop the spread!” Faculty and staff are pulling together, but in ordinary times, a dean told you, “there’s usually a pervasive hermeneutic of suspicion going on.”

Sat 14 Mar 2020
“I have the sense of being unmoored from responsibility,” Emily said. “It’s like a storm with no storm,” you said. “It’s like waiting for a tornado,” she said. “Exactly,” you said. Emily: “I guess I’ll put on some socks and do some knitting? That sounds like a pretty good plan, right?” It did. Spain joins Italy on lockdown; first case in Lorain County; patient surge “threatens to swamp U.S. hospitals”; at dusk, snow.

Sun 15 Mar 2020
California: all seniors must shelter in place. Ohio: all restaurants closing, except for take-out. Your knuckles now sting when you wash your hands with warm water. Cleaning the natural keys of your loaner Steinway, using a non-bleach disinfecting wipe, is easy, but what about the sharps? “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen” and “Amazing Grace,” up and up, octave by octave. Pope Francis walks the Roman streets alone.

Mon 16 Mar 2020
France on lockdown. DC shuttering. San Francisco: everyone must shelter in place. First case of COVID-19 on the Oberlin campus; an employee in the dining hall, who last went to work on Wednesday. Your department chair: “Everything is radically unmoored right now.” No atheists in foxholes, no libertarians in pandemics. Your sister, on the phone: “Are you hoarding toilet paper and pasta like all other white Americans?”

Tue 17 Mar 2020
Cemetery ramble: Toby in-line skates, Emmett scooter. In the IGA, you sidled toward the granola bars; a woman who’d been a yard from you stole even further away. Was the man behind you at checkout, the one buying a case of ramen, wearing blue scrubs? Italy: “morgues are inundated, coffins pile up.” President Ambar shared a poem: “What if you thought of it/ as the Jews consider the Sabbath—/ the most sacred of times?”

Wed 18 Mar 2020
You parked on Main, but the Feve’s front door had a note: pick up all takeout at the kitchen entrance. You drove around back in the rain. A chalkboard sign pointed the way. You entered, approached the bar. A man was ahead of you, also picking up takeout. He held up his hands to protect his face. “Stay away from me!” he said, then he relaxed. “Just kidding,” he said. “It’s all good,” you said, stepping out of his way.

Thu 19 Mar 2020
“One of the things we can do for each other is extend each other grace,” President Ambar said, closing the remote faculty meeting. “Even as we do this difficult thing. We will all be the better for it.” President Bacow, in an email: “The Talmud says that to save one life is equivalent to saving the entire world”; when we’re through this, “there will be no way to calculate the number of lives your actions have saved.”

Fri 20 Mar 2020
National Guard deployments; U.S. land borders closed to nonessential travel; Italy’s death toll exceeds China’s. These headlines are written by a child mimicking the opening montage of a crap disaster flick. Breakfast: margarine on Triscuits; lunch: Laughing Cow on Cheez-Its. Emily at IGA: “There is no fucking toilet paper, flour, bread, or pasta sauce.” The joy of “Seven Nation Army,” you on piano, Toby on trombone.

Good News: The Cupboard Pamphlet

It’s day two of the new year, and I need to get to the office to finish preparing for class today, and I have office hours, and to be honest I keep wondering these days if I ought to have our passports on me at all times in a plastic bag, just in case we need to walk north until we get to that big freshwater inland sea and start swimming (a worry that’s not unrelated to the themes of the work in the news at the end of this sentence), and I really should write in more detail about my good news, and I’m not on social media anymore, and sometimes it feels like social media has swamped all other forms of contact (so how on earth will anyone ever know this?), but for now, for this morning, for this medium, I am so absolutely thrilled to write that What I Remember of My Love Affair with the Bird and Other Stories, a chapbook collection of twelve of my short-short stories, will be published by The Cupboard Pamphlet in September of 2020.

A Story by Me at Liars’ League NYC, Wed. 10/3

Quoting/paraphrasing the email I just sent to the NYU Creative Writing Program alumni list: a short-short story of mine, titled “Intermediaries,” will be performed this Wednesday at the “Courage & Cowardice” installment of the great Liars’ League NYC reading series. Here are some basic facts about the reading, presented in a handy Q&A format.

WHAT DAY IS THE READING? Wednesday, October 3.

WHAT TIME? The reading is scheduled to start at 7:00 p.m.


HOW LONG IS YOUR STORY? 865 words, give or take.


I’m not sure, but the other writers are Rudy Koshar, Cynthia Blank, and Ellen Weeren; and the actors reading the stories are Olivia Killingsworth, Alex C. Ferrill, Ari Brand, and Kira Davies.

DOES IT BENEFIT A CAUSE? Quoting Facebook: the reading is part of READING FOR RAICES, “a fundraising collaboration to raise money for the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, a nonprofit that promotes justice by providing free and low-cost legal services to underserved immigrant children, families, and refugees in Texas.”




WILL YOU BE THERE, TOM? No, I live in Ohio now. But I’d be so thrilled if any fellow NYU CWP alums were able to attend!

Ladies’ Night Good News

A thread, with news. 13 years ago, in my first year in the NYU MFA program, I wrote a story called “Ladies’ Night at the Arctic Club.” 1/

The very first draft, for reasons I’ve totally forgotten, was titled “Reading Moby Dick in the Original Spanish.” 2/

The story is in the form of a diary kept by a woman who finds herself isolated in a house in winter. She can’t recall how she got there. 3/

She’s there with one other character, also a woman. She tries to reconstruct her own memory; she tries to hide her memory loss. 4/

Her world is surreal—she spends her days with a troll in the barn—which doesn’t help her attempts to understand her new reality. 5/

The story is based on a kayak trip with my friend Jessica Anthony, and a winter I spent in New Hampshire with my girlfriend at the time. 6/

This was 1995. My dad returned from the Peace Corps that year, discharged early with Parkinson’s disease. This informed the story too. 7/

I included it as the title story (draft 8) in my thesis. Which I turned into a homemade, limited-run (100 total, 7 left) chapbook. 8/

Ladies' Night at the Arctic Club chapbook

The story went up to a 12th draft, a draft I now dislike. Draft 10 got accepted at a good journal, but I totally believed in draft 11. 9/

So totally, I pulled the story. Now I think I made a mistake. The story has legs. Edward Albee liked it. (Emily Raboteau can confirm.) 10/

It was also the only story I’ve written that got an encouraging response from The New Yorker.* Which certainly keeps you going. 11/

This week’s good news: “Ladies’ Night at the Arctic Club” was a finalist in the Yalobusha Review 2017 Barry Hannah Prize in Fiction. 12/

The contest theme was “fairytale, folklore, and myths.” I’m happy to see my story in this good company. 13/

I worry, though, that at the rate I’m going with “Ladies’ Night,” the story won’t get collected in book form until I’m quite old. 14/

I keep shopping it around in a book ms, currently titled A Mohel Mulligan and Other Stories. 15/

But I joke to Emily that my book—ultimately—will be called Having Sex in Apartments and Leaving Each Other Voicemails: Stories— 16/

—given how many of my stories are becoming dispatches from a strange country. Which all fiction should be. But maybe not like this. 17/

Stories in which the strange country I’m reporting from is the 1990s. Before the wearable tracking devices came, and altered it all. 18/

I am grateful to Yalobusha Review and to contest judge Catherine Lacey for including my story. Thank you. 19/

PS I still write my extremely rare tweets in a text editor. I recently tried to count how many unpublished tweets I’ve written. 20/

It’s a fair number for something so absurd. A few hundred. I think I just can’t handle the fact that you can’t edit tweets. 21/

I like strict old-school limits: 140 characters, or 420. 22/

TYOLA: Nine Copies Left

Will I go so old school as to compile these tweets as a blog post? Yes. I will. 23/

PPS * I still have the New Yorker email, of course. (“I read and liked it […] It’s strange and disorienting […] I was impressed.”) 24/

OK. Back to trying to finish the novel. 25/25

A Note on Notes, an Update on Updates, a Work in Progress

—When I feel not totally certain of what the point of having my own website is, I remind myself that it seems kind of useful to have your own bibliography and your own bio in one place (for the odd person out there who might be asking the Google “I loved this story in Fence but what else has Tom Hopkins written? I must know”), and which is worth a few bucks a year to maintain, I think.

—My tag line (up there in the upper left hand corner) is currently “sporadic news and occasional updates,” but it’s really pretty damn sporadic and occasional these days. In part, I guess, because I don’t send out stories all that much anymore—I only have a couple pieces out at the moment—so it’s been a while since I had one of those lovely phone calls or emails from an editor letting me know they want to publish something I wrote.

—On very rare occasions, I tweet; slightly more frequently, I post photos to Instagram [N.B. Links removed; no longer extant].

—The best and most exciting news we’ve got these days is that The Book of Esther is out in paperback as of 8/22. (I posted a square-cropped version of the following to Instagram on 8/1.)

a box of The Book of Esther by Emily Barton

—Did you see that the novel was in last Sunday’s Paperback Row? (Quoting: “For her novel, Barton imagines a thriving Khazar kingdom in the throes of World War II — crafting a world and a story that are, as our reviewer, Dara Horn, said, ‘as addicting as a Jewish “Game of Thrones.”’”) (I posted a square-cropped version of the following to Instagram on 8/27.)

—Did you see the “5 Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books Inspired by Jewish History and Culture” post in Unbound Worlds last Thursday? Or the Begin in Wonder review?

—In other news (and this is also a contributing factor to why I have absolutely no short-story news), I’m writing a novel. The way I described it to Emily was “an autofiction wrapped in a writing dare wrapped in a false document”; in an email to a writer friend and mentor, I wrote this: “one shorthand way to describe it would be Knausgard meets Nabokov, although I should hasten to add 1) I haven’t read Knausgard and 2) that sounds more highfallutin than I think this thing actually is.”

I’m realizing now, though, that it’d be slightly more accurate than Knausgard-meets-Nabokov to call it John Cheever meets Anne Lamott meets Sarah Manguso meets Jenny Offill.

I’m going to try, if I can, to write progress reports on how the novel is going in this space on a regular basis, but I may completely fail to do so. The novel may fail; the reports about the novel may fail. (Again: what’s the point of having your own website? Whatever you want the point to be. The age of blogging may be long gone, but I’m trying to keep the fierce digital individualism of Jaron Lanier’s You Are Not a Gadget as my lodestar here.) We’ll see.

—In other writing news, I also wrote a sequel to The Year of Living Autobiographically, but it may be just too damn dark to share. I think it might be called The Year of Living Ignominiously. It’s definitely on the back burner for now.

—I don’t have anything smart to say about this, but like most people I know, I’m thinking about mortality a lot these days; in my case, one of the specific ways I’ve been thinking about mortality is the fact that one of my childhood friends died suddenly this past January. I knew he wrote, but I discovered at his memorial service that Brian Shea wrote a lot, and published his own work [N.B. Link removed; no longer extant]. I am full of awe at the same time that I am full of grief.

Here’s a picture of me, age forty-seven, and Toby, age nine. I was nine when I met Brian. This is Toby and me at Brian’s memorial in June.

Toby and me in Maine

Brian also was a frequent contributor to The Good Men Project. I really want his essays there to become a book. I don’t quite know what I can do to make that happen, but for now, I’m leaving this link here, to create one more thread in the universe to his words, and I’m remembering what Rebecca Solnit writes in Hope in the Dark, that we don’t know what the outcome of our actions will be, but we sure as hell know what the outcome of our lack of actions will be. (Timothy Snyder makes much the same point at the end of On Tyranny.)

More soon, I hope. Onward.

The Accidental Reading Series

The short version of this: I’m on the lineup with Elizabeth Isadora Gold, author of The Mommy Group, for the last installment of my friend Nelly Reifler‘s Accidental Reading Series at the Golden Notebook in Woodstock at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, 7/2. Please come if you can!

TYOLA: Nine Copies Left
The longer version: Not counting hurts (even a small galley printer run of 150 copies has hurts) and returns (from when the book was no longer moving at the consignment table at McNally Jackson), I am down to my last nine copies of The Year of Living Autobiographically.

I have a few copies I’m going to send—quixotically—to writers and artists I admire (and whom, I should add, I don’t know personally). I’ve already done this a few times; I’ve sent the book to Anne Lamott and George Saunders, for example, both of whose writing has been a huge inspiration for me.

I’ve mentioned, in my notes to my heroes, that when Ed Sanders started a literary journal in the early sixties, he mailed copies to his heroes, such as Beckett, Ferlinghetti, and Ginsberg.

(I haven’t mentioned in my notes that the journal had what I still believe is the best name in the history of lit journalsFuck You: A Journal of the Arts—or that part of what was so exciting about the name at the time was that mailing it was, I believe, either totally illegal or quite possibly illegal. That all seems like more information than is necessary. Especially since the books might never make it to their intended readers.)

I also have the idea that, since the book struggles so much with what we do and don’t share on social media, I should send the last numbered copy, #150, to Mark Zuckerberg. The first copy went to our friend Dorothy Albertini, so it seems fitting that the last one should go to Zuckerberg. A to Z! Alpha to Omega.

I guess I should save a copy for myself as well? (And maybe, somehow, I could get a copy to Ed Sanders himself?—it looks like he still lives in Woodstock.) But that leaves four or five copies that I’ll bring to the reading, which I’ll be ready to sell, give, trade, or barter. And I’ll read from the book as well. Probably the same set list as last year’s reading at the Sunday at Erv’s series, which worked well, I think.

Again: please come!

More Praise for The Year of Living Autobiographically

What follows—a blog post about a Facebook status update about a book about, among other things, avoiding Facebook—may at first seem seem ironic, since the first sentence of The Year of Living Autobiographically is “The plan: ditch FB for one year.” But what ended up happening (as you’ll know, reader, if you happen to have read the book) is that although my Oulipian self-dare meant that I stopped writing on FB, I did keep reading. In other words, it was my social media writing and sharing that went old school—paper, ink, and eventually, the post office—for 366 days.

But I could never totally and completely quit the thing. “I haven’t fully ditched FB, as I’d hoped I would,” I wrote on 12 December; then on 2 January: “I put my FB account on hold two days after my dad died. ‘It feels like an inadequate medium for the expression of grief,’ I wrote in an e-mail to friends and family.” It still feels that way to me, and I still wish I could have the fortitude to reject it. But I love the pictures of our friends’ children! And I love keeping up with friends who live far away.

And I love it when this sort of thing happens: I recently sent a copy of the book to Floyd Cheung, associate professor in Smith College’s English department, where I was very happy to teach an intermediate fiction workshop last spring (and where Emily served as the Elizabeth Drew Professor for two years). Floyd wrote an incredibly thoughtful and generous response to the book on his Facebook page; I’m sincerely grateful for his kind words, which I quote here with his permission:

I just finished reading The Year of Living Autobiographically by Tom Hopkins and feel compelled to comment on it in Facebook, since Tom set himself the challenge of writing a status update every day for one year from 2011-12. Apparently before 2011, FB had a 420-character limit on status updates. Tom adopted this constraint by writing precisely 420 characters every night before going to bed. During the course of this year, Tom writes about events major (his father dies) and mundane (what he eats for dinner). Along the way, he recounts, too, his experiences raising his young son, dreams, and workaday life as a teacher and writer.

The theorist Lauren Berlant observes that “life” is in danger of becoming a genre with set conventions. She points out that when we say, “get a life,” we project certain expectations onto our interlocutors about employment, partnership, possessions, etc.

In The Year of Living Autobiographically Tom successfully plays with the conventions of the typical autobiography–usually a book written later in life that purports to tell one’s life story. Instead of a late-in-life reflection, we get a sense of life as daily accretion. I believe this has a chance of redefining what it means to “get a life.” By writing about the music he hears at his son’s preschool, a butterfly that he thinks is dead, and his wife’s vitamin-taking habits, Tom gives them a kind of value. He doesn’t elevate these moments as much as he makes them add up to what we can call “life.” This achievement is at once modest and, potentially, life-changing.

A few times, the gift-economy experiment aspect of The Year of Living Autobiographically has resulted in marvelous and unexpected swaps, so now I’m really looking forward to reading Jazz at Manzanar, Floyd’s chapbook of poems.

By the way, I’m still trying to find a traditional publisher for the book. I keep getting the nicest rejections (one editor wrote “the searching and the fierceness of the love and hope and acceptance reminded me frequently of writers like Marilynne Robinson,” which buoys my spirit still), but no home as of yet.

If you, reader, happen to be an agent or an editor, and your interest is piqued, please drop me a line—I’d be delighted to send you a copy!

The Year of Living Autobiographically

The World’s (Seemingly) Most Boring Set List

Emily and I had a great time reading at the Sunday at Erv’s series. Thanks to everyone who was there, and thanks to Madeline Stevens for hosting us! It was an amazing experience to read from The Year of Living Autobiographically for the first time. I was delighted to get more out-loud laughs than I’d ever expected.

I love it when writers—poets especially—share set lists for readings, so I’m doing the same here, in case anyone’s curious. I felt good about the entries that I read, but the list of dates, below, is not exactly poetry without the entries themselves.

Thanks also to everyone who made suggestions for what I should read. With any luck I’ll have more readings from the book in the coming year!

Saturday 15 October 2011
* * *
Monday 21 November 2011
* * *
Monday 12 December 2011
* * *
Thursday 15 December 2011
Friday 16 December 2011
* * *
Sunday 18 December 2011
Monday 19 December 2011
Tuesday 20 December 2011
Wednesday 21 December 2011
* * *
Wednesday 11 January 2012
* * *
Thursday 19 January 2012
* * *
Saturday 26 May 2012
Sunday 27 May 2012
Monday 28 May 2012
Tuesday 29 May 2012
Wednesday 30 May 2012
* * *
Saturday 23 June 2012
Sunday 24 June 2012
Monday 25 June 2012
Tuesday 26 June 2012
Wednesday 27 June 2012
* * *
Friday 29 June 2012
* * *
Tuesday 03 July 2012
* * *
Saturday 13 October 2012