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Neal Pollack's Biography

Member Info

Married to the painter Regina Allen
Oct 2007

I’ve written seven books: Alternadad, Never Mind The Pollacks, The Neal Pollack Anthology Of American Literature, Beneath the Axis of Evil, Stretch: The Unlikely Making of a Yoga Dude, Jewball, and Downward-Facing Death. Three of them are works of satire: the Anthology makes fun of literary pretension, NMTP mocks rock culture, and Axis takes on political punditry. The Anthology was originally published by McSweeneys, and later by HarperCollins, which also published NMTP. Axis was published by my friend Ben Brown, from his living room.

Alternadad, my memoir of early parenthood, is well-represented elsewhere on this site. Warner Brothers has optioned it as a feature film which is, as they say, “in development.” I've also got a deal to write a sitcom pilot for CBS, which is on hold because of Hollywood's current labor troubles.

I’m the editor of Chicago Noir, a collection of crime stories published by Akashic Books and set in my former home city. One story of mine is in that collection. I’ve also published noir-ish fiction in Brooklyn Noir, the forthcoming Los Angeles Noir, Stephen Elliot’s Politically Inspired, Lit Riffs, the Missisippi Review Online, and Swink.

In 2000, Rolling Stone named me “Hot Writer,” whatever that means. In 2001, the Anthology won the Firecracker Award for best independently published fiction. I was featured as a “Writer To Watch” in a 2002 issue of Book Magazine, though they didn’t actually give me a watch.

My recording career has been little heralded. In 2001, I recorded an album version of the Anthology, with backing music from Jon Langford, Sally Timms, Kelly Hogan, and the Pine Valley Cosmonauts. It was subsequently released on Bloodshot Records, and as part of a “boxed set” on Harper Audio, which included a fake interview with John Hodgman, an hour of spoken-word poetry parodies, recorded live, and various other bits of nonsense.

In 2003, to coincide with the release of NMTP, I formed The Neal Pollack Invasion. I lived in Austin, Texas, at the time. The original lineup was as follows: Jim Roll, Dakota Smith, Jon Williams, Neil Cleary, and me on lead vocals. Together, we recorded Never Mind The Pollacks, the album, which was released by Telegraph Records. We played an excellent South By Southwest showcase, and then toured, in a Ford Econoline van, through the South, East Coast, and Midwest, ending the tour with a CMJ showcase at the Virgin Megastore in front of hundreds of people. That was our last show. Two weeks later, the record label went bankrupt.

A subsequent version of the Invasion, featuring most of the Yuppie Pricks, plays occasional shows in Austin.

I’ve also travelled extensively, giving readings and spoken-word performances. As part of version 1.0 of McSweeney’s, I appeared on stage with John Hodgman, Sarah Vowell, Zadie Smith, David Byrne, They Might Be Giants, Arthur Bradford, Dave Eggers, and many other writers and musical acts. Those were the days, my friend. A wonderful audio account of my first bootstrap book tour, which includes a little song written about me by the now famous band We Are Scientists, can be found here.

I played literary and music festivals in the Netherlands and Belgium, and appeared at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City. I also started the 215 Festival in Philadelphia (where I lived for a couple of years), to feature the growing confluence between indie literary and indie music culture. Since then, the 215 has featured hundreds of writers and many musical acts, including Patti Smith and pretty much everyone else I mentioned above.

Meanwhile, I earned money. From 1993 to 2000, I was a staff writer at the Chicago Reader. After I left, I foundered about, taking on such high-profile work as writing the brochure copy for the Weight Watchers’ Men’s Program. Things improved drastically when I began writing a political satire column for Vanity Fair. I also wrote one for The New York Press. In the months leading up to the Iraq invasion, this site was also a political parody blog.

I’ve written for GQ and Details and Salon. For a while, I wrote the Bad Sex column on Nerve.com, and I occasionally write about sports for Slate. My Slate piece about the cult of the general manager was included in The Best American Sports Writing 2006. Recently, I’ve been writing humor essays for The New York Times Magazine, and I have an occasional column on Jewcy.com.

The non-career aspect of my biography is apparent to anyone who reads my stuff. When I describe the particular smell of my dog’s farts, what else is there? Nothing, I say.

Influences

In response to The New York Times: "Sure, I could blow helium up your asses and say I owe everything to Philip Roth or Kurt Vonnegut, or I could try to seem all sensitive and urban by claiming Joseph Mitchell or A.J Liebling..

Agents

Daniel Greenberg

Recommended Links

Publishers

Akashic
HarperCollins
HarperPerennial
Pantheon
So New Media