Friday, September 07, 2012

The Brave Voice of Neal Pollack

I note among the ranks of those taking easy shots at the ULA and its writers at Tom Bissell's Facebook page is the name Neal Pollack. Neal, are you too timid to post your thoughts here at this blog?


Neal Pollack doesn't seem to know who he is and what he's doing. For a few years he was Dave Eggers' lead stooge. McSweeney's most prominent clown. (The ULA loves clowns.) Then in 6/19/05 Neal Pollack wrote an essay for New York Times Book Review which seemed ungrateful to his former mentor. Eggers responded the next day with a long note expressing his displeasure. (More about that in a later post.) Pollack immediately groveled, but it wasn't enough.

Neal sought to reinvent himself as a Harvard-style writer, and claimed to be the next Zadie Smith. I'm not making this up!

Of late the confused Mr. Pollack has discovered the wonders of Do-It-Yourself publishing, and announced that fact to the world. Forget his years sneering at the DIY writers of the Underground Literary Alliance. Neal portrayed us as selling zeens on streetcorners. (We have.) How do those streetcorners look now, Mr. Pollack?

The difference is that ULAers were DIY from philosophy and principle-- from utter disgust at monopoly culture and the stagnant conformity of contemporary literature. We never compromised our integrity or our art.

For Neal Pollack, DIY is a matter of expediency. If one of the "Big Six" says the word, he'll gladly go jellyfish crawling groveling debasing himself back, sliding on all fours to kiss their feet.

Can anyone respect a writer who Dave Eggers makes or breaks with a snap of his fingers?

Come on, Neal. If you can't stand up to the Dave, at least you can answer me. I'm a writer with no power at all. Even an invertebrate should be safe. Then again, maybe not!


a.b. said...

Check out his Goodreads page for Alternadad. His other books are listed as "other editions" which means all his books are reviewed together as one. Very weird. Not such great reviews either.

Wred Fright said...

After I read the Tom Bissell comments thread that was leaked here (thank you, anonymous literary equivalent of Julian Assange/Bradley Manning), I emailed Neal Pollack the following:

"Dear Neal,

I have an answer to your question: 'When will the literary establishment finally recognize the literary achievements of such unsung giants as Wred Fright and Wild Bill Blackolive?'

Maybe when you review one of my novels. But, alas, probably not even then.


Wred Fright"

He was brave and gracious in his reply which was "Touché! Be well.

NP" I was impressed that he wrote back as I didn't expect a response. As a result, Pollack's gone up a notch in my view. At least he's not afraid to mix it up directly, which is more than can usually be said for the McSweeney's crew.

King Wenclas said...

Quite a situation, Wred, when even daring to respond to an email from a ULAer can be considered brave. Alas, I think you're right.
One reason the ULA sent shock waves through the literary world when we appeared out of nowhere in 2001 was that the lit world was so tepid, timid, and tame. Completely devoid of energy. When a few of us showed up at a KGB reading of a Vanity Fair editor it was like sneaking in late to mass! Not a sound from the audience and only a droning monotone from the reader. We asked a few mild questions, popped a balloon, trying to liven things up-- and the crowd of well trained pods went into hysterics. Today, in comparison to, say, Occupiers, anything the ULA did seems itself tame.
Yes, Eggers himself tried to liven things up-- Mr. Pollack the token clown-- but the Dave still embraced for the most part all the preppy rich kids, who have no edge because their lives have never had an edge.
Will Ratblood dragged a few of us to a McSweeney's event in Philly once. A total Ivy League prep school rich kid show in look and tone.
That there's no edge to these people means there's no edge to their work (see J Franz), and by extension, no edge to what's accepted today as American literature.
I'll have more to say about this coming up.
Stay tuned. I'm still lobbying for a minimum of respect, and wait to see if we're given our propers.