According to the blurb on his book, The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature, “Neal Pollack has been the Greatest Living American Writer across six decades, seven continents and ten wives. He has won the Pulitzer prize, the Booker Prize, the PEN/Faulkner Award (twice), and the Premio Simon Bolivar for contributions to the people’s struggle in Latin America. In 1985, Pollack’s writing was declared ‘beyond our meager standards’ by the Swedish Academy.”
This statement is so obviously true, and so great, one cannot help but suspect Pollack wrote it himself. And why not? Who else is fit to praise him? Not us. We content ourselves with trying to divine what goes on in the head of one so gifted and so heartrendingly honest that the world truly is not worthy of him. Incidentally, if you want to know more about the “Wally” referred to in this interview, you will have no choice but to purchase the aforementioned book. After you have satisfied your morbid curiosity, of course, you are free to toss the book in the fire. In fact, that would be far the best thing you could do after contaminating it with your unspeakably grubby hands. Then go out and buy another copy, and this time, be more careful not to besmirch it with your foul touch.
The Big Jewel: What lessons did you learn from Cambridge? What did Wally teach you about yourself?
Neal Pollack: The years in Cambridge were spent, naturally, in a stupor. I learned particularly that gin does not mix well with cognac, and that opium does not mix well with Scotch. To tie in with the second question, I also learned that I am not capable of true love between men, unless that man is Wally Trumbull. Indeed, the blissful, stolen hours I spent in Wally’s arms, out there behind the rugby equipment shed, were the only hours I count as truly spent in my life. There I learned how to be a man, and how to make a fistful of hair my own.
TBJ: Have you ever saved anyone’s life?
NP: If only I could have saved Wally’s that fateful day in the Phillipines, or JFK’s that day in Dallas, or, let’s face it, James Dean’s on that fateful highway or Kurt Cobain that dark afternoon in Seattle. Why do all the beautiful men have to die, with the possible exception of Paul Newman, who is pretty sturdy? Why? Why?
TBJ: What advice do you have for young people from broken families with little ambition?
NP: Well, I say, one of your own became President of the United States, so there is hope.
TBJ: What do most celebrities look like naked?
NP: Having actually seen most celebrities naked, I can tell you that they’re pretty hot, with the exception of Catherine Zeta-Jones, who is, surprisingly, a hog. Most male celebrities are ripped beyond belief, especially Shemar Moore from The Young and the Restless. Mmm, girl. He is fine. Also, it is hard to imagine how spectacular Christina Ricci is in the sack until you’ve sacked out with Christina Ricci. On a ski lift. At Sundance.
TBJ: Can you tell us a humorous anecdote about someone you publicly humiliated?
NP: Oh, ho. Can I ever!
TBJ: How can somebody learn to be like you?
NP: It is not something that can be learned. Some things in the world are simply innate, like the speed of Ali’s left jab, the grind of Lili St. Cyr’s hips, the charm of William Jefferson Clinton. So, too, is my writing ability. It is a gift from god. A bequeath from the immortal universe. All mortals can do is bask in its glow and root for me to win awards.
TBJ: Are there any questions you get sick of answering?
TBJ: What are your thoughts on morons?
NP: They are all pretty much down on paper in my novel “The Moron,” which narrowly lost the Pulitzer to “Humboldt’s Gift” in 1976.
TBJ: Word Association time, Neal. What’s the first word you think of when you hear the following? Love.
NP: Catherine Zeta-Jones.
TBJ: The Big Jewel.
TBJ: Other Web sites.
TBJ: Harry Potter.
NP: Little girly wizard-boy.
NP: Hot, sticky syrup.
TBJ: Bathing Suit.
TBJ: Can you compare yourself to a specific literary figure, rock band, and film?
NP: Yes, I can. The literary figure I most closely resemble doesn’t exist, but is a cross between Shakespeare, Dickens, Joyce, and Alice Walker. The rock band I most resemble is Outkast. As for film, nothing better captures my experience on this earth better than Apocalypse Now. Or maybe St. Elmo’s Fire.
The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature is available in a newly expanded Perennial paperback edition at Borders, Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com, and fine bookstores everywhere, as well as the kinds of sleazy bookstores where you probably shop. The original hardcover edition, which has fewer things in it but will be a much more reliable way to prop up that wobbly kitchen table leg, can still be ordered online from McSweeney’s Books at http://store.yahoo.com/mcsweeneysbooks/nealpolanofa.html. For ostensibly nude pictures of Neal Pollack and other sights too glorious for human eyes, visit http://www.nealpollack.com.