Pollackís Shadow: A Neal Pollack Roast
From Pitchaya Sudbanthad
We haven't talked in a long time. You resented
me, always have, and while I think you made heartfelt attempts at
reconciliation, they were for your sake, so that you could feel young and
spirited again. You have always been a selfish bastard.
I must admit that I still fondly remember how we
first met. You probably haven't forgotten the decrepit, moldy studio in
Sunset Park that I lived in. That place seemed like a small piece of paradise
after everything in my life fell apart, before I met you that day. Remember how I was
sitting at the counter at Jackie's when you came through the door? Almost
immediately you reacted to the Jonathan Franzen I had in my hands. You
couldn't bear it. You ran to me. Remember that? Your eyes had such fire, like
you saw something in front of you that you either loved or hated more than
anything else in the world. You grabbed my copy of The Corrections and
proceeded to pee on it. You tore off the wet pages, and stuffed it down your
mouth and spat out a heavy plume of masticated, urine-yellowed paper. You
almost choked. Ralphie had to do a Heimlich on you. Then we got kicked out. I
never saw anything like it. I felt exhilarated, renewed. You were the reason.
You taught me a lot in the following months. You
taught me how not to let my limitations get the best of me. You taught by
example and made me pay for the beer. You shouted into the mic and scratched
that guitar, and it sounded like shit, but you were screaming "Punk
Rock! Punk Rock!" and made it sound so authentic. I didn't know what
punk rock was, or at least, I didn't know the meaning of it. It would be a while before I realized that you didn't know anything about it either. You
took me to Austin. We watched the sun set over Texas. You got on the hood of your '85 El Dorado,
a magnificent red orb glowing behind you, and loudly declared yourself The King of the
World. You weren't kidding, and I thought that I needed to be more like you
before anything good could happen to me again.
I worked while you wrote, and I was glad to do
it. I didn't mind coming home to see you wanking to Dr. Phil on the couch. I
wasn't offended when I found you in my bed with the seventy-year-old widow next
door. I thought that I was missing your recklessness. I thought my writing
suffered because I wasn't enough of an ass like you. You told me how much the
novel that I was writing sucked. You took the manuscript and shat on it
before you burned it and ate the ashes. This was after you had done the same
thing to yours. Don't think that I didn't know about it. Don't think that I
didn't know about the marked-up copy of The Corrections you zip-locked in the
toilet tank. I knew about your complete library of David Foster Wallace's
works. Didn't think I'd check underneath that thick layer of Barely Legals
did you? You had signed copies delicately preserved in Mylar.
We celebrated when you published that Anthology.
You said, Let's go out, It's all on me, and you bought me a knish at the
hotdog stand. You really thought you were the shit, hanging out with Dave and
Salman. You didn't tell me about the night you went to the strip club with
Updike, that you went home with him and had fallen in love. You didn't tell
me about Zadie, until you let me find the letters in the mail. You left panties on the floor, and if I asked, you said something like, "Oh, Nell
Freudenburger must have forgotten it there."
They all loved you. They liked you shirtless and
whip-creamed. They loved you popping out of a giant apple pie. They loved you
in their arms. You were the show they wanted to be in. Your invasion was
complete. But as everyone adored you, I began to hate you. I learned that I
didn't much like the drunken Neal. You laughed like a chipmunk. I didn't like
freshly showered Neal clogging the tub with fistfuls of hair. I didn't like
cereal-chomping Neal. I didn't like the nuns you brought home, the sounds you
made with them. I will never forgive you for what you did to my sister. I
didn't want anything of you around me. Everything happened so fast after
that. I threw your bags out the door. You begged and pleaded. You had actual
tears in your eyes, something I thought wasn't possible.
But you wanted that to happen. I knew you did,
because you couldn't bear to see me, as well. I was someone real, too real
for you. You were ashamed. You cherished your notoriety more than your soul.
You played the very fiddle that charmed you to your doom. You surrounded
yourself with things that lacked substance, people who lacked love,
everything that allowed you to proceed callously in the cold, empty universe
of your own design. What meager fame you had meant everything to you, but it
did nothing for you, not anything that you thought it would. You are
the Most Important Writer Ever. Your greatest parody, Neal Pollack, is
yourself. Your wasted talent and foolish heart broke the promise of your happiness.
Read More from YPRís Neal Pollack Roast.