Assuming you've given any thought at all to such things, you may have believed, as we did, that the Timothy McSweeney who figures in the name of Dave Eggers' ten-year-old literary journal and website was a fiction. It turns out, the man was real, and died last month, and Dave now explains for the first time that he was a mentally ill member of a family with the same last name as Eggers' maternal grandfather, and who used to write letters addressed to both Dave and his mother when Dave was a kid. It turns out that Eggers' grandfather was the attending obstetrician at Timothy McSweeney's birth in Boston, and from the birth certificate Timothy assumed that he was related to these McSweeneys. He taught studio art at Rutgers before later being confined to an institution
, where he presumably still lives, from whence he wrote the letters that entranced little Dave and inspired the name for his quarterly concern.
Dave writes, "the name Timothy McSweeney came to hold an aura of mystery. He was an enigma, a man looking for a home, producing writing that was cryptic and full of longing... So many years later, when I was conceiving a name for this literary journal, the name Timothy McSweeney's Quarterly Concern occurred to me. It made sense on many levels."
Anyway, there you have it. It's a touching story.