There's a note in Samuel Beckett's play Waiting for Godot in which the character Vladimir "uses his intelligence." In spite of all his efforts to obey the author's parenthetical instruction, Vladimir admits a moment later, "I remain in the dark."
In an e-mail interview with Neal Pollack, author of The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature (HarperCollins), he responds to a series of questions with the hope that his "synapses are firing."
Indeed they are, but with Pollack, who has made a career from blurring the lines that separate fact from fiction, literature from satire and rancor from respect, he often deliberately leaves his audience somewhat in the dark. But his pure braggadocio and many brilliant parodies of authors like Gore Vidal, Don DeLillo and Norman Mailer have endeared him to a growing legion of literate fans.
Originally a native of Phoenix, Pollack also can be heard reading some of his better essays, including "The Albania of My Existence," "I Am Friends With a Working Class Black Woman," "I Have Had Sex With 500 Women" and "I Wipe My Ass on Your Novel," on a brand-new CD, produced for Chicago's premier Americana label, Bloodshot Records. The Pine Valley Cosmonauts provide the musical accompaniment. A boxed set of recorded material, the Harper edition of the book and the Bloodshot disc were all released on March 5.
"The Bloodshot sessions were very fun, not particularly drunken, but reasonably creative," says Pollack. "Somehow, I persuaded Rob Miller, the president of the label, to put the album out [and] people have given him a lot of crap for it, so he is my hero."
Why would they give him any crap?
"I have been accused, mostly by old Chicago friends, of having sold out my true self to the twin demons of ego and ambition," Pollack says. "It's probably true. But there's this idea in Chicago that I shouldn't have a CD because I was a journalist there for so long. So the disc, at least in Chicago, has been controversial."
Pollack and his wife now live in Philadelphia, but about the Valley, Pollack has this to say: "I don't know much about Phoenix these days, but I know how my parents are doing, how the sports teams are doing, and if Joe Arpaio does anything horrible, I see it on 60 Minutes," he says.
"But Phoenix hasn't been the same since they tore down Graham's Fruit Stand, and last time I checked, they were threatening the Chez Nous cocktail lounge," says Pollack. "Like you need another damn Walgreens out there, people."
He adds, "I know that you all are sick of hearing about the Jason Kidd trade, but I'm still burned. I have given 25 years of my life to being a Phoenix Suns fan, and the stupid Colangelos and their stupid moral code have brought me nothing but grief. Screw it. I'm a Sixers fan now. Also, Philly fans stay for the whole game."