“Literary parody and current events parody, mixed in with some fellatio humor; and some of them have plots.”
So goes author Neal Pollack’s synopsis of the very funny and naughty Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature, which stars himself as an aging literary uber-celebrity, two-time winner of every important writing prize, and lover to the most beautiful women in the world.
The real-life, 32-year-old Neal stopped in Santa Monica last week to read some poems about wiping his ass with the world’s thick books, his big jew-cock, and pot smoking – part of a multi-continental book tour that includes stops in Beirut and Jalamabad.
The Anthology itself is 200-plus pages of reactionary satire skewering the heart of the bloated, arrogant world of contemporary magazine journalism. The sheer size and density of Pollack’s ego in the Anthology acts like a black hole of vanity – sucking in and obliterating all respect for the over-paid hacks writing New York Magazine-style articles about race, genocide and revolution from their myopically first-person perspectives. Chapters include: “Why Am I So Handsome?” “I Am Friends with a Working-Class Black Woman,” and “An Interview with My Sister, Who Is a Lesbian.”
“For no matter what I have seen in my life – the war, hunger, misery, broken promises, and forgotten love – one thing has remained steadfast. Myself,” says the Anthology’s introduction. “Throughout my life, I have been there.”
Pollack’s intro segues into a chronology and family tree showing the icon’s blood relations to Pizarro, Bolivar, Santana, Aguilera, Che Guevera, Edward James Olmos and others. Pictures in the center of the Anthology showcase Pollack’s ravenous masculinity against a backdrop of lovers, war, and beat poets. The paperback version also features a study guide with questions including, “Like many men of his generation, Pollack is a multimillionaire and has a home in Mustique. Have you heard about the exclusive parties that he’s thrown there? Do you wish you’d been invited?”
The satirical conceit of Pollack’s massive ego gels well in the new paperback edition due to tighter chapter editing and more supplementary material than the hardcover edition, which was published by Dave Eggers’ McSweeney’s, a publishing concern, in 2000. Pollack got his break doing satire for Eggers’ website and literary journal. The two struck a deal in which Eggers fronted the money for a first run of 10,000 copies and Pollack kept all the money from book sales after Eggers recouped the cost of printing. Twelve thousand hard covers of the Anthology sold with little more publicity than Eggers’ loyal McSweeney’s fan base and a slipshod road tour Pollack financed himself.
Harper Collins bought the rights to a paperback Anthology last year and, despite the corporate funding, Pollack intends to keep it real. He told his Santa Monica fans last week about his hip-hop training school for inner city youths.
“There are five basic essentials of hip-hopping,” said Pollack onstage wearing blue jeans, an Eddie George football jersey and a Dodgers cap. “There’s of course rhyming or rapping, breaking, tagging or graffiti art, political awareness and taxonomy. I teach them to say things like, ‘I got mad stuffed elk up in my crib, yo.'”
Some of the L.A. hipsters laughed at Pollack’s college dorm anthem to 4:20, while those who thought they had come to a respectable, upstanding literary reading sat in confused silence.
“Is he a stand-up comedian or something?” asked an L.A. hipster girl. She had come to see John Doe of Band X, which was part of Pollack’s two-hour act that also included Jerry Stahl of Permanent Midnight recounting the anal administration of opium. Pollack’s goal is to do book tours like rock shows and, aside from the occasional rocky moment, it worked refreshingly well.
“I am determined, now that I have the resources to, A) bring a lot more people into the fold and, B) to make really good shows that people can go to and feel like they’re part of a community and not just a book-buyer,” Pollack said. “Literary readings are so boring. You go and the author stands in front of you at a podium to read. Even if the work is good, even if it’s funny or moving or dramatic, it doesn’t add anything to your enjoyment of the book. You’re just basically there to see a face – to put a face behind a book that you read, but that’s not for me.”
Instead, Pollack prefers to stage dive or take off his clothes. His new work appears occasionally in McSweeney’s and in the New York Free Press, both of which are online. Recent pieces on the Axis of Evil and Homeland Security capitalize on Bush-Ashcroft angst, but as Pollack says himself, “the thing about the pieces is that there are lots of obscure references in it, but they are also just kind of goofy in their own right. You don’t need some kind of decoder ring, you can always just laugh at the blow job jokes.”