Neal Pollack, the savior of rock
Deflating the hot-air-filled rock critic
By Amy Diaz [email@example.com]
Never Mind the Pollacks, A Rock and Roll Novel with Neal Pollack, by Neal Pollack, Perennial, paperback, 2004.
Neal Pollack is bigger than Jesus.
Or so he would have you believe.
In reality — that is, in fictional reality — he is a Hunter S. Thompson-esque rock critic who witnessed every seminal moment of rock history in the last 40 or so years. He’s a man so connected with his subject that he doesn’t believe himself to be covering rock and roll, he is rock and roll. He lives hard and fast and has an addiction to cough syrup, among other drugs. But his life is a journey, a journey in search of the purity of music. He is the very spirit of American music.
He is also completely full of crap.
Pollack, the honest-to-god actual Neal Pollack, is part of the McSweeny’s crowd of smartass wordsmiths. He has a remarkable ability to mimic the fatuous vanity of famous writers. In his The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature, he goes after the Ernest Hemingway types, the Truman Capotes, the George Plimptons. Using their celebrity-obsessed, ego-inflating style of non-fiction writing, Pollack inserts himself (or rather the character called Neal Pollack) into a variety of historically significant, always exclusive events.
In his latest book, Never Mind the Pollacks, Pollack takes on the world of rock criticism, the most serious practitioners of which seem more interested in recreating the rock lifestyle than in actual studies of rock. Or, when they do approach the subject of the actual music, it’s with five-dollar works and an academic bent, the real purpose of which is to disguise the fact that the story was written only shortly before deadline by a drunk/high/mentally unbalanced writer.
The book is actually “authored” in parts by a rock critic even more of a pompous ass (though less talented) than Pollack, Paul St. Pierre. Here is a man who knows not only all about Pollack’s life—his time with the Ramones, his beginnings as Nobert Pollackovitz, the many Pollack stories involving vomit—but has an equal appetite for name-dropping and navel-gazing. He follows the great writer from his first encounter with Clambone Jefferson, the blues man who gives Pollack “The Message” about his art, to his discovery of Kurt Cobain (Pollack dies a mere three days before Cobain does). Ah what a magical adventure.
Actually, it’s less magical and more snarky, biting satire about what remains of the Jann Werner-worshiping segment of the world.
- Amy Diaz
2004 HippoPress LLC | Manchester, NH