One-time Pinky guest Neal Pollack has the back page of the NY Times Book Review today, where he tries to do away with his half-alter ego Neal Pollack once and for all. I imagine you would get sick of yourself, or the attention-grabbing, obnoxious, oversize version of yourself, after getting some of the negative response he has.
Me, I quite enjoyed Never Mind the Pollacks, which took the piss out of the punk canon and rock criticism. I don't know if I got more of a kick out of his not-serious worshipping at The Altar of Iggy or the raw take on critics like Greil Marcus. I was still cranky about the ex-boyfriend who had kept a photo of one of his ex-girlfriends on our fridge for months after I moved in; months later, as we were visiting my family for a holiday during which my parents were decidedly un-charming, did the then-boyfriend happen to mention that his ex-girlfriend's father happened to be Greil Marcus (brilliant/pretentious rock critic, one of the "idealistic friends" who helped Alice Waters open Chez Panisse). Which I could have forgiven if we never talked about music, or music criticism, but being as I was employed as a music journalist there had been, oh, only hundreds of times he could have mentioned it. Instead he saved it up for a moment when it could be wielded as a weapon, meant to make me and my family small by comparison. So I was cranky, and Neal Pollack let me snicker beside him, tasting revenge.
In any case, my own obnoxious, oversize ego aside, Neal Pollack can compose some clean, clever prose, and he hopes to push the Pollack Persona into the shadows in time for the 2006 release of his next book.
Elsewhere in the review, Philip Caputo's fictional story of aid workers in Sudan, Acts of Faith, is apparently a tome but has its high points: be tempted by hearing him read from it on the Times' site. Lord Byron's Novel by John Crowley gets a mixed review from Christopher Benfy.
In reviewing Imagined Cities by Robert Alter, Jed Perl can't seem to crawl out of a quagmire of acadmic language: "city life offers modes of experience from which it is possible to forge analytical tools or stylistic principles." OK, take out the word "city." Is the sentence any less true? So if the point is about cities, what exactly is the point?
I am indeed cranky. Maybe the well-reviewed Linda Ellerbee (!) memoir Taking Big Bites will cheer me up.