Tom Hawkins (writer)

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Thomas Donald Hawkins (January 11, 1927 – September 23, 1988) was an American writer who is the probable author of the Wanda Tinasky letters, once widely thought to be the work of novelist Thomas Pynchon. [1]

Contents

Hawkins graduated in 1950 from the University of Washington with a degree in English. He married Kathleen Marie Gallaner and worked for Boeing (as did Pynchon) in the early fifties, then in Beaumont, Texas in television, for station KFDM, and in advertising. In 1960, Hawkins moved to San Francisco to join the Beats, supporting himself as a postal worker.

After his work was rejected by local Beat publications, he took to self-publishing under the name "Tiger Tim" Hawkins. As a fan of William Gaddis, Hawkins discovered newspaper, the self-published Gaddis fansheet of "jack green". He became convinced that green was Gaddis, a detail that would show up in the Tinasky letters. Tinasky also claimed, "The novels of William Gaddis and Thomas Pynchon were written by the same person".

After Hawkins retired, he and Kathleen moved to Mendocino County just outside Fort Bragg, [2] where they lived in poverty for most of the eighties. Hawkins engaged in petty scams and thefts, and took to disguising himself. Kathleen came into an inheritance and bought a car for herself and a pickup truck for her husband. She also bought a kiln, and began a promising career in pottery.

Early life

Hawkins was born in Pangburn, Arkansas [3] and grew up in Port Angeles, Washington.

The Letters of Wanda Tinasky

Wanda Tinasky, ostensibly a bag lady living under a bridge in the Mendocino County area of Northern California, was the pseudonymous author of a series of playful, comic and erudite letters sent to the Mendocino Commentary and Anderson Valley Advertiser (AVA) between 1983 and 1988. These letters were later collected and published as The Letters of Wanda Tinasky. In them, Tinasky weighs in on a variety of topics – most notably local artists, writers, poets and politicians – with an irreverent wit and literate polish at odds with her apparently straitened circumstances.

The harshness of the attacks was deemed excessive by the Commentary early on, and, as a result, most of the remaining letters appeared in the AVA. At the time, the identity of Tinasky was completely unknown, and subject to much local speculation. Tinasky was thought by many to be Thomas Pynchon, but is now widely believed to be Tom Hawkins.

Murder–suicide

Three weeks after the last (according to Shakespeare scholar and "literary detective" Don Foster) authentic Wanda Tinasky letter, Tom Hawkins bludgeoned his wife Kathleen to death, and kept her body inside their house, unburied. After several days, he set fire to their house and drove her car off a cliff into rocky shoals, killing himself. [4]

At the time, no one connected the end of Tinasky with the Hawkins' murder–suicide. Indeed, this event didn't altogether stem the flow of Tinasky's invective: at least one "copycat" letter, by Foster's account, had been published while Hawkins was alive, and these continued to trickle out for a short time after his death.

Investigation

Using textual analysis, Foster made a strong case that Hawkins was Wanda Tinasky from Hawkins' printed works.

From 1962 through 1964, Hawkins published Freak, a fanzine that he printed with a mimeograph machine under the aegis of his own Ahab Press.

In 1963, Hawkins (as "Tiger Tim Hawkins") self-published a paperback book that sold for $1 entitled Eve, the Common Muse of Henry Miller & Lawrence Durrell, that also addressed Gaddis and green. Hawkins insisted that Gaddis and green were the same person. In the Tinasky letters, Hawkins continued to insist that Gaddis and green were one and the same, and also claimed that Gaddis/green had written the works of Pynchon. In 1986, Hawkins as Tinasky again claimed that jack green "...did pretty well in the auctorial line with novels published commercially under the names of William Gaddis & Thomas Pynchon." [5]

Foster also came across a 1964 second edition of a polemic Hawkins (as "Tim Hawkins") had published against Paul Krassner, publisher of The Realist , entitled Paul Krassner, The Realist, & $crap: Plus a P.S. on it. The ampersand and the "P.S." were evocative of the Tinasky letters. [5]

Foster's case for Hawkins being Wanda Tinasky was sealed when the person who had bought Hawkins' former home sent Foster correspondence, personal papers and news clippings she had found.

Bibliography

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References

  1. Ulin, David (April 25, 1997). "Gravity's End". Salon.com . Archived from the original on March 28, 2010. Retrieved August 27, 2013. While in Mendocino, [Pynchon] may or may not have written a series of letters to the Anderson Valley Advertiser under the name Wanda Tinasky.
  2. Hendrix, Jenny (January 24, 2014). "Mistaken Identity". The Paris Review. Retrieved May 5, 2014.
  3. Foster, Don (2000). Author Unknown: On the Trail of Anonymous. Henry Holt and Company. p. 201. ISBN   0-8050-6357-9.
  4. Foster (2000), p. 207
  5. 1 2 Foster, Don (2000). Author Unknown: On the Trail of Anonymous. New York: Henry Holt & Co. pp. 204–5. ISBN   0-8050-6357-9.