I told Erin the other day: “I sometimes wish my name was William, you know?”
“Why? Tom suits you.”
“I know, I like Tom too, but- William can be shortened to ‘Wm.’ ”
I picked up The Shack and pointed at the author. Wm. Paul Young.
She laughed a little, and I laughed too- “If you flip it, it’s still Wm!” I stuck the book back on the rack.
I wonder, does anyone else ever wish they had different names? I guess they would, people like… people like Robin Hobb. He’s a pretty anonymous guy, but we saw his name in the bookstore (Fenwick’s, a secondhand, if any of you are wondering) and we just shook our heads. Robin, you poor thing. Your mother went and gave you the name Robin when she knew your last name was Hobb. It’s better than something like Cornonda, or something.
I always liked the name Matt, not necessarily Matt short for Matthew, but… I never really figured it out. The name “Matthias” seems too ancient and lame. I guess I never thought it through. In the sixth grade, I went a whole week being called “Matt,” and I liked it and got used to it. It was actually kind of cool, being addressed as a different name than usual. It was worth a try. Going back to Tom was nice, though, just because it’s what I know.
I like the name Tom. And my middle and last name are fine, I have no problems with my full name. Thomas Holden Caulfield. But sometimes I think of a cool name to have, and wish I could have been named otherwise- it changes every so often.
I hear Matt Fulton, a half-ass horror writer who’s actually two people (one old and one recent), originally picked his surname because he knew he was a screwup. He picked Fulton because of Robert Fulton, the guy that made the first steam engine, showed it off, and messed up the whole thing. The incident’s known as “Fulton’s Folly,” now. Matt (short for Matthias, haha) knew a lot of his works were going to be duds. He’s incredibly anonymous, I found him on some poetry website one time. He was self-published; no label owns/owned him (this, mind you, was all according to his little bio paragraph, which I thought was incredibly interesting). And the original guy was a raging drunkard who would have fits of manic depression, during which he’d burn a lot of what he’d written up. He died after publishing the ones he thought were half-decent in a big book. Short stories and poems.
Now, the crazy old bastard had pretty jacked-up priorities. He was crazy and lonely, and it didn’t say what job he worked but it was probably a bad one. I can’t help feeling bad for him, because his life sounded miserable, and the poem I read by him was incredibly disturbing- it was untitled but it had to do with Stockholm Syndrome. It was from the point of view of a man who’d kidnapped people and kept them all in his basement.
He was crazy, but he was artsy. And that’s worth something, right? I like people who are at least creative when they’re unreasonable. Not so much Salvador Dali or Katy Perry or Lady Gaga, they make it too public. They’re all about image, which I find annoying (have you seen the music video for Extraterrestrial by Katy Perry? That’s just trippy).
But I think people that put out a story that’s just effing crazy (Fulton, maybe; Steve King; Koontz, I’ve heard he’s a goddam psycho; Jason Myers [the sexual bulldog] [For the record, I do not like him, and neither does Erin] ). I like people that you meet and they’re normal, or at least sort of, maybe they’re a little shy or socially awkward or whatever, and then they put out a story that’s incredibly well-written, plotted nicely, has great character development, et cetera. Or maybe it’s just raw and powerful. I mean, if you watch an interview of someone like Stephen King, he’s quiet and short and to-the-point. He answers “How do you write?” with “One word at a time.” Then he goes home and shuts himself up in his house in Bangor and doesn’t come out of his coffin until the next manuscript’s typed up and edited.
People like that end up having their names remembered (and their names are usually distinctive. Who’s gonna forget the name Koontz? Dory, from Finding Nemo, that’s who). And that’s what I want, my name to be remembered.
If I changed my name to William so I could shorten it to Wm., maybe I’d find out that most Williams do that anyways. And it’d be disappointing, for me. So I’d change it back to Tom, not knowing what to do about it. Tom is fine, for me. I could even shorten it to Tm., if I wanted to, but then people would call me Trademark and then I’d end up getting called Mark, so no.
I think too much, dammit.