This is the first in a series of interviews with Random People The Editor Feels Like Emailing. Today's interviewee: Neal Pollack—McSweeney's writer, author of
The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature, and freelance whore for Vanity Fair et. al.
ES: Question 1: Neal, Neal, Neal... Can I call you Neal?
NP: You can call me anything you want. I'm so rarely in New York these days, and it's nice that people are still calling me at all. Those glamorous McSweeneys years, when we threw parties that were kind of fun but also kind of boring, seem like such a long time ago. Now I'm fat and totally out of date. Is there anyone out there who can dress me up like a literary doll and guide me through the sexually ambiguous, drug addled alleys of wartime New York?
ES: Question 2: Who's fatter, Paris or Nicky Hilton?
NP: I will not pretend to even know the answer to that question. The Hilton sisters are a total abstraction to me, as is anyone, just about, who appears as an article subject in Vanity Fair, US Weekly, Vice, and every other publication on earth.
ES: Question 3: Why?
NP: Am I supposed to come up with a clever answer to that question? Fine. I'll just say, because the world is obviously about to end, and I should be able to do whatever I want.
ES: Question 4: If you could duct tape any New York media or literary figure to the doormat at Michael's, who would you step on and why?
NP: I guess I'd have to say Jonathan Safran Foer. That faux-humble good little Jewish boy act drives me batty. Oh, you write your books in the public library? Great! I write mine at home, like a normal person. You're a millionaire, but you live with roommates in Queens? Swell. I made $59,000 last year, a decent but not spectacular salary for a 33 year old. I own a house, and I feel pretty lucky to be supporting myself as a writer in a time of severe economic crisis. If I made a million plus, I'd be living pretty damn well, thank you very much. Also, that thing he said in Esquire about how most writers are "fakers" just drove me crazy. Actually, JSF, most successful writers are phonies, and it takes one to know one. The vast majority of writers are starving, or at least struggling, and they seem very real to me.
ES: Question 5: Enough about you. What about me?
NP: Well, I don't know you very well, but I'll hedge on kissing your ass in case Gawker takes off. I think this site is funny.
ES: Question 6: The NY Press' new editor, Jeff Koyen said some
not-very-nice things about you today. I believe his exact words were "I don't find any 'humor writing' to be funny. Take Neal Pollack, for example. What the hell was Henry thinking when he included that decidedly unfunny Pollack 'self-interview' in the latest Chunklet? Pollack may have had his day—I think it was a Wednesday, sometime back in 1999—but if that boy doesn't diversify but quick, he'll be a footnote in no time." Did you beat Koyen up on the playground when he was 5 or was that just a coincidence? Care to respond? (I know I said none of the interview would be about you. My four-year-old nephew loves it when I joke like that.)
NP: The guy is editing a New York newspaper and he just moved back from Prague? PRAGUE, for fuck's sake! And he thinks MY act is dated? Oh, I'm sorry that I didn't have a zine in the 90s while I was living in Prague. What WAS I thinking? Well, now the Prague expats have returned, and one of them has stolen the job of my good friend John Strausbaugh, who was unceremoniously dumped from the Press' top job right before Christmas. I'm sure Koyen had nothing [to do] with John's dismissal, but still. Strausbaugh is a great journalist with a wide range of interests, but now that paper is in the hands of a man who can write this sentence without irony: "Friday night's Sultanizatzia with DJ Gogol Hutz is a great mix of ethno beats without veering into the pedantic, NPR-style approach to World Music." Jesus GOD, New York is a war zone, and he's writing stuff like that? Ridiculous. Strausbaugh's city had balls. Enjoy your $5 Brooklyn Lagers and your Sunday zine reading at your "local flavored" Williamsburg bars, pal.
ES: Question 7: Williamsburg hipsters vs. Austin hipsters. Compare and contrast. Try not to puke.
NP: Austin hipsters tend to drive large-tailfinned vintage cars, which they frequently crash. Their friends then throw multiband "benefits" for them because, naturally, they don't have health insurance. Pretentious, yes, but at least they take care of one another. But try to enjoy a Sunday bowl of restaurant pozole without having a van full of asshead punk rockers blow into the joint and start ordering Mexican martinis. On the other other hand, you can see four or five great bands almost any night of the week here for about six bucks, and most people will generally talk to you no matter how good looking they are, or how ugly you are.
As for Williamsburg, well, you know that it's unspeakable. If you can find two people you like in Williamsburg, go over to their house, rent a couple of movies, pick up a pizza, order a bag of pot from the delivery service, and don't leave until noon the next day. It'll be more fun than going to Luxx, despite what Jeff Koyen says.
ES: Thank you, Neal Pollack. We now return to our regularly scheduled Gawker.