The Ofi Press Magazine

International Poetry and Fiction from Mexico City

Interview: Tom Dooley

Tom Dooley  was born in 1970 in Alaska and was the founder of Eclectica Magazine, one of the oldest surviving online litetary publications, along with Chris Lott in 1996.

 The following interview was carried out by Jack Little in May and June 2012. Published in Issue 21.

 

Q. Do you believe in something?

A. I believe in living by old saws like "The actions make the man," and "A man is only as good as his word." I believe in giving kids equal amounts of love and discipline. I believe that people should believe whatever
they want to believe, so long as doing so doesn't mean they're obliged to a) make others believe the same thing or b) take away other peoples' rights. For me, personally, I believe that if there is an omnipotent, spiritual being out there, he or she or it has absolutely no vested interest in the organized religions we humans have created on this planet. I believe that in politics, everybody lies, but the people with the most to gain are the ones who lie the most. I believe that the key to happiness is realizing that things could be a lot, lot worse.


Q. Is there a short story that sends shivers up your spine every time you read it?

A.  I barely have time to read anything the first time, but there are a number of stories that have stayed
with me over the years. Mike O'Driscoll's "Dancing with Creation" is one. I actually received that story as a paper submission back in 1997, and I wound up typing the entire thing into the computer by hand, I
loved it so much. I don't know that it was a shiver, exactly, that I got from that story. More like a profoundly deep-bass vibration that on some level is still with me. It's a brutal, beautiful story about a young man
in Ireland trying to make sense of his surroundings, but as all great stories are, it's all about the human condition.


Q. If you had a time machine and could travel to any place in time, where would you go and why?

 

A. I have no desire to live in the past or the future for the past's or future's sake. I've realized that, much like Woody Allen demonstrated in Midnight in Paris, such wistfulness for another era is a delusion. I wouldn't mind being able to go back and get to know my father, who died when I was four, but even that I'm not sure would be such a good idea. The movie Back to the Future notwithstanding (to continue the movie theme), it seems like the reality of spending time with the father one never had would end up being more heartbreaking than affirming. Ultimately, it seems like if the key to happiness is realizing things could be a lot, lot worse... then I don't know that it's a good idea to go in search of what very well might be "worse." Better to live in the moment.


Q. You've mentioned many times before in previous interviews your dislike of "masturbatory" fiction. Can you explain more?

 

A. Hmmm. Doth the editor protest too much? I hope I haven't mentioned it THAT many times, but you're right, I have used that term on more than a few occasions to describe writing that appears to be more for the author's sake than the reader. I never really meant it as anything more than that--the act of self-flagellation as opposed to the act of interacting. But I supposed one could pursue the question, is writing like sex? One could. But that seems like a good example of what I mean by masturbatory, so...


Q. Along with Electica magazine, do you write yourself? How does the editorial process and your own personal processes of writing interact?

 

A. I write the occasional (one or two per year) opinion piece for our Salon section, and that's about it. I used to aspire to be a short story writer. Then again, I used to aspire to play professional basketball. I'm content to play pick-up ball at lunch, maybe write short stories later in life, and in the meantime, they've got some great NBA action on tv, and quite a few great stories find their way to the Eclectica Magazine inbox.


Q. Please finish this sentence. Tom Dooley is...

A. ...the sum of his experiences: a 42-year-old white male, born and raised in a cabin in rural Alaska, who graduated from the University of Chicago with an English degree, was a secondary school teacher and coach for
about a decade and now works as a government bureaucrat, has been married for going on a dozen years to a brilliant, as yet mostly undiscovered poet, has two awesome adopted Haitian-American children, has edited an online literary magazine in his spare time for 16 years and counting, hikes in the New Mexico mountains every weekend with his family and five rescue dogs, and loves to build things with his hands.