I wish the title of this post was actually the first item in a list of dead people or dead things or drunken proclamations that actually turned into a short story published on the internet, but it isn’t.

Timothy McSweeny, of accidental McSweeny’s Internet Tendency fame, is dead at 67.  Dave Eggars has a touching tribute to him, and the whole story of how McSweeny begat McSweeny’s, on the site.  Here’s an excerpt:

One day in Boston in 1943, my grandfather Daniel McSweeney delivered a baby. This baby was put up for adoption, and was adopted by another McSweeney family. He and David were raised in a loving family, and Timothy eventually went to the Massachusetts School of Art and later received an MFA from Rutgers University. After graduating, he taught studio art at Rutgers for a time.

But mental illness overtook him, and he struggled with alcoholism. He was hospitalized many times. Eventually he was put in the care of an institution for mental health, where he remained safe and received treatment. It was from this institution that he began to send letters. According to his brother David, he would search through city and state records, find names, and write to the people he found.

Presumably, he saw my grandfather’s name on his birth certificate and came to think Daniel McSweeney might have been his father, not simply the delivering obstetrician. And thus he sought out the children of Daniel McSweeney.

Ross, David and I figured all this out in 2000, and it was then that they informed me that Timothy was still alive. He had remained under doctors’ care all these years, and the McSweeney family visited him regularly.

Knowing that the journal bore the name of a real person who had endured years of struggle threw melancholy shadows over the enterprise. But the McSweeneys insisted that the use of the name was acceptable, even appropriate, given Timothy’s background as an artist and search for connection and meaning through the written word. Since 2000 we’ve implicitly dedicated all issues to the real Timothy.

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