An Important Note From Neal Pollack.
My friends. Today I present you with an opportunity: To become Big Publishing’s worst nightmare. Haven’t you always wanted to become Big Publishing’s worst nightmare? I certainly have. Now, thanks to the Internet, we can live our dreams. Throughout my literary career, I have written books at the behest of Big Publishing, and Big Publishing has made it all the more difficult to put mosh with almond-raspberry vinaigrette on my table, because Big Publishing has to pay 22-year-old recent college graduates to make publicity-related phone calls to a bunch of underfed bookstore clerks in Seattle and other such provincial burgs. For this and other useless services, I have ceded millions of dollars over the decades. Well, now I say: Screw Big Publishing!
So today, if you hate Big Publishing as much as I do, though I don’t know how that would be possible, I ask you to mail me a dollar. This simple action will send a message to Big Publishing. But if you don’t send me a dollar, I will stop writing, forever. No longer will you see my pieces in McSweeney’s, Granta, or The New York Review of Books. The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature will be my final tome. I will get a real job, like everyone else.
Send me that dollar. Pay and the story rolls. Steal, and the story folds. Come out of your holes and tap into your souls. If you do so, I will continue to publish until I finally ascend to that great writer’s retreat in the sky. This is my promise to you. Forever and ever. Amen.
The money, I must add, is not for me. I will give every dollar I receive in the mail to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, one of the few organizations in my native city that dares challenge the corrupt, autocratic real-estate empire of Mayor Richard M. Daley. Nevertheless, the symbolic act of the dollar sent will show Big Publishing, once and for all, that the people, however teeny-seeming, are also pretty big. Here is the proper address:
1400 W. Devon Ave.
Chicago, IL 60660
I mean it, people. Send me a dollar, carefully wrapped in a humble sheet of typing paper, on which you have scrawled a note of encouragement. Cash only. You can also send me coins that add up to a dollar, but that might mean a higher rate of postage for you. Together, with our symbolic, yet very real, money, we will smash the corporate superstructure. Big Publishing is going down in a tsunami of fear and misunderstanding. Now, please enjoy my latest piece, though if you don’t send me a dollar, it may also be my last.
A Don for All Seasons .
About two years ago, I was unhappy. My writing had won every major prize available to me; my newspaper column was read my millions; I had, through my investigative journalism, caused the repeal of several unjust federal laws. Of course, I was also a national television celebrity. But I was always on the run, always running, never pausing to appreciate the small things, and the small people. Sometimes I felt like an arrogant, narcissistic caricature of myself, and when you are the world’s best looking, most-talented writer, there is little time left over for self-doubt.
Then I remembered Don’s Coffee Club. In simpler times, Don’s was the dumpy, but eccentric, Chicago neighborhood joint where I would go to escape my crazy girlfriends. I played cards, ate moldy store-bought cake, and engaged in ludicrous conversations about the modern cinema with people I didn’t care about. I took a special liking to Don Selle, the middle-aged Swede who ran the place. Don, with his sudden, unexplained hissy fits when business picked up and his ability to reduce life to the simplest—and I do mean simplest—truths, was a balm that soothed the abrasive influence of all the brilliant, attractive people in my daily life. I needed to get back in touch with the ordinary man, and no man was more ordinary than Don.
So Don and I began hanging out together on Thursdays, which is, inexplicably, his day off. We watched the weekly television sermons of Minister Louis Farrakhan, who Don thought put on a good show. We talked about UFOs, because Don believed in them. Don told me that Showgirls was “the greatest movie made in modern times, I think.” One week Don took me to the Art Institute to see The Fountainhead, his favorite movie. Every time Patricia Neal opened her mouth, Don threw back his head and shouted, “Ha-hah!” which cleared out the seats around us. Don’s simple life lessons enraptured me for nearly three weeks, at which time I was healed, and besides, I had to go interview Tony Blair for Tina Brown’s new magazine, an assignment for which I was being paid $10,000. I will never forget my Thursdays With Don, though I’ll never entirely remember them, either.
Now Don’s Coffee Club is being threatened by gentrification, and Matt Herlihy, the building’s heartless new owner, is threatening to evict Don from his upstairs apartment. We must protect little places like Don’s Coffee Club, however unimportant they seem to outsiders. To that end, certain loyal clients have staged guerilla actions to save the Coffee Club, like David Kullgren and his friend Carrie, who broke her foot after chaining herself to Don’s front door in protest last week. There is also Megan from Kansas, who has made a habit of scaring potential yuppie tenants away by making crazy cow noises. These people are subtle heroes.
I, however, am an unsubtle one, and earlier this week, I decided to hold a reading at the Coffee Club to call attention to Don’s troubles. At first, Don wasn’t happy about the event, as I drew the usual crowd of hundreds, which caused him to become very busy.
“You set me up, you fucking Jew bastard,” he said.
“I set no one up,” I said.
Then, from nowhere, a snarling eight-foot pig-beast rose up behind us, his razorly fangs dripping with blood…
Send me a dollar.