Neal Pollack’s murder ballads

Boy, oh boy, am I ever getting soft in my old age: I actually feel sorry for Neal Pollack.

I’ve never been able to stand Neal Pollack — or, I should say, his persona. Mostly, I didn’t like that he didn’t seem to take anything seriously, especially his own work. Everything was in quotes with this guy, like he was a “writer” who “wrote stories” and then “read” them to “people.”

I prefer it when people believe in what they’re doing and admit it. When people are too focused on their fame, I tend to wonder whether they like the actual writing part at all. If being successful is the point, why not get a real job? It’s far easier to make your mark in banking, I’d think. I mean, assuming that you’re better at math than I am, or look really good in a suit.

As obnoxious as I find the whole Greatest Living Writer routine, well … I can kind of understand where the impulse came from. It’s not like there are hoards of publicists waiting in the wings to help new writers promote their work. I did my very first interview ever the other day (and who knows if any of it will see print, so I won’t bother telling you where and with whom), and I definitely tried to be as witty and quote-worthy as possible, in the hopes that I’d get more ink out of it. You kinda feel like a douche, but what are you supposed to do?

At the moment, it seems kind of cruel to pick on Neal Pollack. He’s apparently having all kinds of financial troubles and people are ragging him about his parenting skills and Dave Eggers has dumped him. And I’m not really qualified to criticize him, anyway, since I’ve only read his essays, not his books. I’ve never wanted to, because his schtick was so grating. Here’s something for all of us would-be writers to think about, though: If he’d been less irritating, would we have heard of him at all?

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