This collection of satirical essays by the wildly clever Neal Pollack was among the first books published by McSweeney's. The author fabricates for himself a super-inflated ego, and goes on to apply that persona's preposterously offensive and short-sighted opinions to issues ranging from race relations to wild teenagers, but more than anything else, to his own (albeit fictional) stunning accomplishments.
It should come as no surprise that The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature is the inaugural title from McSweeney's Books, the publishing arm of Dave Eggers's literary quarterly McSweeney's. There appears to be two Neal Pollacks at work in the literary world. There's the legendary award-winning writer who has covered such global crises as the Spanish Civil War and 1999's "Battle in Seattle"; who has been married multiple times and romantically linked to Lara Flynn Boyle and Zadie Smith; and who counts Bishop Desmond Tutu and the Utah Jazz's Karl Malone among his closest friends. Then there's the real Neal Pollack, the young writer responsible for this comical tribute to the hard-drinking, fistfighting, wounded White Male egos behind the banged-up typewriters of first-person journalism. The high jinks begin in the table of contents, with such bloated chapter headings as "The Burden of Internet Celebrity" and "Why Am I So Handsome?"--hinting at what's to come. There's a detailed chronology included ("1959: Goes to Hollywood. Blacklisted.") and a nifty Zelig-like collection of photographs capturing Pollack (shirtless, more often than not, in his khaki photojournalist vest and aviator shades) yachting with J.F.K.; posing with a mud-caked platoon in Vietnam; and tuxedoed, escorting Mia Farrow to Truman Capote's Black and White Ball. Highlights include a transcript of Pollack's surprise appearance during a 1996 taping of Oprah's "other favorite author," Toni Morrison, where he offers this nugget to readers: "Oprah expanded my readership like no television program ever; not even my brief stint on Laugh-In gave me such wide exposure to Ma and Pa United States." Despite the one-joke tone of this slim volume, Pollack's clever wit prevails throughout, leaving a highly entertaining satire in its wake. --Brad Thomas Parsons