Saturday, December 08, 2007

Neal Pollock, "Alternadad" (2007).

I'm perfectly aware that I wrote in an earlier post that I could identify with Neal Pollock. He wrote a book called Aternadad, which chronicles his transition from bohemian to father. As I made my way through the first half of his adventures, I could truly relate to some of his feelings and experiences surrounding the prospect of bringing a baby into a f'd up world. But as I continued to the end of the book, Pollock started to annoy me. I starting wondering how much of his identity was based on a self-perception of being 'cool', and how much of it was genuinely heartfelt. Perhaps he meant to come off as a self-conscious poseur in order to appeal to my demographic. Maybe that stance is meant to be reflexively humorous. If so, then I can respect that. Still, the guy has a way of coming off as a pretentious clown.

To illustrate what I'm talking about, I'll direct you to this interview. He refers to his appearance at a book fair in Austin, TX. He was recruited to bring a younger element to what Pollack referred to as a "stuffy and boring" culture. Apparently he took off his shirt and yelled into a malfunctioning mic, and therefore he feels that he was an unqualified success. Don't take my word for it... I quote Pollack on Pollack- "(It) was very half-assed, which is good. It's what after-hour events should be like. It was essentially punk rock." The erstwhile author and pop commentator once assumed the role of lead singer in a band named The Neal Pollock Invasion. He even went on a mini-tour the year his wife delivered him a son. Mercifully, he soon realized that he would never be a rock star- even if he could recruit an amazing back-up band.

As I proceeded through Pollack's account of building a family, I couldn't help noticing how much artifice he was including to make himself look like some 'working class hero'. The guy lived in a neighborhood in the absolutely 'hippest' spot in the Southern US, and freaked out because there was a tragic domestic dispute down the block from his house. After making a big deal about becoming active as the Vice President of the local neighborhood association, and trying to get other people to invest long-term in their shared living environment- he abruptly decided to cut-and-run from a string of personal 'bad luck'. He characterized that time in his life as extremely trying, and bemoans his financial position. He says he was feeding his family rice-and-beans. Meanwhile he's sucking down pot from a hi-tech vaporizer and planning to move to Los Angeles to write scripts. Hey kids... Neal's just like us!

Actually Pollack doesn't have to work a 'job'. He's a free-lance writer. And his wife is a fine art painter. She doesn't have a job either, except when she's struggling with her position as a part-time community college teacher. It's hard to relate to a a guy who has time to plan a "Music Hour" in which he attempts to methodically inculcate his two-year-old son with the exact same tastes that he has as an adult. Should we give him a pass because he is a working 'journalist' for several 'alternative' glossies? Ok... so your whelp likes Johnny Cash and the Aquabats. Ok... so you've taught him to mosh in the living room... congratulations, you're the newly-anointed authentic voice for my generation! It gets to be just a bit too much to hear how hard he has to struggle to bring up his kid with contempt for the mainstream.

On the other hand I may be judging him a bit too harshly. It's great that he loves his kid enough to make him into a carbon copy of himself. I'm sure it's especially cute when you see them together with their little Boston Terrier (with the ironically-clever moniker "Hercules), surrounded by a gaggle of adoring college-aged girls trying to figure out where to direct their slavish praise. Or when you run into them buying European capers at the organic grocery store. Somehow he has beaten the odds and transcended his tragically disadvantaged circumstances, and initiated a journey into fatherhood. He's also written a reasonably entertaining tale. Remember- you don't necessarily have to like the characters to enjoy a book.

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