MB: Is it possible to estimate how many times you’ve had to explain your name? Where do you find the patience for schmucks like me, pestering you about your name?
DM: The name is more of a gift than a burden, or at least that’s the way I’ve decided to approach it. People are amused, and when they are amused they smile, and smiling makes them think they like me, so I am more popular than I deserve to be. In any case, I’m asked every three or four days “is that really your name?” That has been the case in adulthood, at least, once I moved away from my grade school and neighborhood. So, doing the math, I’ve had to explain my name 3400 times.
You are, I believe, a practicing Buddhist. Has your name helped or hindered your spiritual path?
Yes, I’m a practicing Buddhist, but I don’t take myself too seriously. I am anything but reverent or disciplined in my approach. It is hard to take yourself seriously when you are named after a cartoon character.
To what extent do you think your name has influenced the kind of writer you’ve become? Perhaps I’m projecting because of my own goofy name, but I can’t imagine you or I ever being taken entirely seriously, just because of our names, as writers of, say, massive horror tomes or post-Keynesian economic treatises.
The name has influenced my approach to life and self, and as such, it has led me to where I am as a writer, certainly. I was always drawn to humor writers, even back in grade school I was reading Benchley, so my own writing tries to be funny as well. No doubt it is all tied up together, an infinite feedback loop of amusement and quirk.
Ever use a pseudonym? Ever tempted?
I worked as a “serious” journalist right out of college, covering Pennsylvania politics, the steel industry, weighty matters such as those, and was known as Bill Moore for that period of my life, about six years. A few people from those days still try to call me Bill, and I end up looking around the room, wondering who they are asking after.
Describe your relationship with soup.
The name comes not from the stew and soup reference but from a comic strip character who was very popular back in the 1920s and 1930s. Dinty Moore ran a saloon, sold corned beef, was a bit of a scallywag and ethnic stereotype, so when Hormel needed a name for their new product, they grabbed it. Why my mother thought naming me after a comic strip was a good idea is a secret she took to the grave.
About this column: Writers are by definition obsessed with words. And when it comes down to it, unless you’re really plucky, there are two or three words you’re stuck with for life: your name. Every other week I’ll ask a different writer five or so questions on the subject.
This week I talked to Dinty W. Moore, the author of The Mindful Writer: Noble Truths of the Writing Life, as well as the memoir Between Panic & Desire, winner of the Grub Street Nonfiction Book Prize in 2009. Moore has published essays and stories in The Southern Review, The Georgia Review, Harpers, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, The Philadelphia Inquirer Magazine, Iron Horse Literary Review, and Crazyhorse, among numerous other venues. A professor of nonfiction writing at Ohio University, Moore edits Brevity, an online journal of flash nonfiction, and lives in Athens, Ohio, where he grows heirloom tomatoes and edible dandelions.