“This persona is initially amusing, but since almost every piece in the book is about how wonderful he is — and only peripherally about the locations or topics that he has “been assigned to cover by top men’s magazines” (wink, wink) — it quickly grows tiring. Yes, he delivers some funny lines about the women who can’t resist his sexual prowess or his award-winning writing skills, but then he delivers those lines again and again. And they become boring. Worthless.”
–W. Eric Martin, in review of The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature, Literal Mind
A Massachusetts-based writer, W. Eric Martin is working on a series of stories about wishes. (Click here.) I’m not sure who W. Eric Martin is and there will be no further mention of him in this interview, however, I wish him the best.
Neal Pollack, Jesus. A regular Tattered Tom huh? A man living the rock ‘n roll fantasies of strange boys and girls who still read and write when you’ve got the special effects of Fox News, Jesus. It seems before I even heard of him, I heard of him. Now it’s fairly difficult to be engaged in current American literature without knowing Neal’s name, but furthermore — what he looks like naked (well, with a cat concealing the goods). Oh yeah, Neal Pollack, the guy in the ocean with freakin’ black oil smeared upon his fair and mighty belly! Oh yeah, Neal Pollack, yeah I heard of him. I keep hearing of him, the name pops up in nooks and crannies, he creates stirs. Perhaps equally hated as loved, never failing to solicit an extreme response. Well kids, whether you think he could spare a few pounds or isn’t all THAT great in bed or whatever your beef or potato, he has made it and we will continue to hear of him.
RRM: About that war on TV: I’ve noticed that you’ve been strongly addressing that issue recently in your blog – do you feel an artist has a social responsibility in these times of waist-high bullshit to communicate their perspective to the public in vain or noble attempts to save the world?
NP: The artist has no social responsibility whatsoever. I feel a certain duty, just as a person, to try and make sense of the rhetoric and doubletalk and lies and confusing combat footage. But then again, one person’s lies are another person’s truth, and I’m loath to say that my version of reality viewed from my futon in Austin, Texas, is the objectively true one. If anything, my mission would be to showcase the pretensions and hypocrisies of those who write about this war, both from the right and the left. That’s the only real angle I’ve got.
RRM: Especially amidst these gray days of Clear Channels- Radio/Television media lacks the equivalent of a small or independent press, thus securing the invaluable role of literature in the survival of Free Thought. However, do you feel the limited distribution/marketing associated with the “alternative” presses prohibits your work from reaching it’s potential public?
NP: I try to cut both ways by having a corporate publisher and an independent publisher. Beneath the Axis Of Evil probably would have a larger audience if it had been published corporately, but I would never have been able to throw it together overnight, distribute it myself on the Internet, and get on to the next project. Corporate publishing takes a long time. Also, there’s the Internet to consider. I have an audience of about 10,000 readers a week on my website. What fiction writer need dream of more readers than that?
RRM: I feel your work reflects the anti-academic crazyass lineage of writers that America has a particularly Proud Tradition of producing. Do you perceive comparisons of your work to writers like W. Burroughs and H.S. Thompson as criticism or a complement?
NP: A major compliment. I don’t think my writing even holds half a homemade candle to either of those guys. They are models and heroes, as are guys like Kurt Vonnegut and Terry Southern.
RRM: I do realize that you’ve worked your shapely ass off to get where you’re at, but was there ever a sort of low point of poverty/sacrifice before financially establishing yourself as a writer?
NP: There was never a ton of poverty. I always had a job as a reporter. When I was in my 20s, I made a modest living, but I lived by myself in an apartment, had no car, and virtually no overhead. So hard work in relative obscurity, yes, but I was never a garroted poet.
RRM: Can you give me a cool moment of glory where you maybe looked around you and realized that shit was working out pretty okay?
NP: I think it came last spring when I did a reading in Seattle at a rock club called the Tractor Tavern and the room was basically full. They even enjoyed my singing. The best moment was when I burst out, with the band, into a version of Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried.” My cousin’s wife was standing there with her jaw dropped open. I knew then that I had potential to do something pretty special, long-term.
RRM: What’s a night-out with Neal- bars, clubs, driving automobiles off piers?
NP: These days, in Austin, I usually drive my car downtown, park in a free lot, go to a club, see about three bands, and drive home. If someone else is driving, then I drink and do other unmentionable things and get a ride home. For those who love the rock, these are excellent times.
RRM: Are you or have you ever been a member of the Communist party?
NP: No. But I signed up for the International Socialist Organization when I was a freshman in college. A few days later, the student activities office called and said, “you don’t REALLY want to belong to this group, do you?” I said no. And that was the end of my life as a radical.
RRM: Is it strange being Neal Pollack and also a Human Being or are the two fairly compatible in public?
NP: It’s not strange to me. Some people see it as strange. But to me, “being Neal Pollack” means the same thing it always has.
RRM: So, Mr. Pollack, if you could or were forced to thrust or shove three objects (physical, metaphysical, or quantum) up the arse of Mister President what would they be and why?
NP: A Bible, just so he can see what it feels like for those of us who don’t “believe,” a football, because it would hurt, and a bag of pure cocaine, for old-time’s sake. Then I’d call the DEA and they could cart him and his coke-filled ass away.
About the author:
Ryan Robert Mullen is the author of Naughty, Sweet Boy (Word Riot Press) and a columnist at Get Underground. He maintains a website at ryanrobertmullen.net.