SXSW Interactive 04
Exclusive Web-only 'Austin Chronicle' coverage of the wonks, the weekend, and the wilder side of cyberspace
Neal Pollack Explains It All to YouMonday, March 15
Catching up with the "World's Greatest Living Writer" on an escalator that's going down is an ironic experience, right? Neal Pollack likes it that way. After his SXSW Interactive book reading, the punk and semipopular blogger shared his impressions on his presentation as we descended with the metal. "I don't answer questions in character," he began. "I'm a fiction writer if you want to transmute that into calling me a liar then, you know, that's journalism." His "huckster" partner and panel introducer, Ben Brown, was at his side. Neal must have been jabbing me. See, I'd called Ben a liar in a recent article, after he toyed with me in a way that seemed ironic and fictional. He had oddly enjoyed being mistaken for a man in his 30s, who liked to lie about his age and come off sad and desperate. He had strangely relished being accused a perjurer. But today he showed me his license, reflecting a DOB quite close to mine. What had Neal done to this innocent child?
This zeal for confused fiction, as seen in Never Mind the Pollacks, seems more like autobiographical, fictional alloy than pure invention. Perhaps the point is to confuse, mocking the people who don't get the joke. Again, we returned to "irony" a word whose meaning no one ever agrees on anyway. "Irony's not something you enjoy. It's something you endure," Neal said. "I firmly believe that irony did not end on September 11, and I am determined to make my living in an ironic way." Huh?
Do the kids who don't get it feel left out? Do they hate him? "I do get a pretty substantial amount of disdainful response," Neal said. "I get e-mails calling me a cancer on the corpus of American letters." Neal doesn't cry about it. He admits to his own grating foibles. "I am pretty annoying," he said. He'd put himself on his own Top 10 list.
Needless to say, there weren't lines of salivating fans curlicued about the Convention Center, waiting for his presentation an Internet-themed reading full of what Neal calls "cheap laughs." "It was a pretty typical event. They gave me the main lecture hall, and thirty people showed up," Neal said, an obvious enjoyer of being misunderstood. "Room for 300. I got 30. That's pretty much the story of my life. But the 30 people who came had a damn good time."