[Dear Readers: Please note that in addition to the several literary love affairs I predict below, my wife has permitted me to conduct three additional liaisons on my book tour, as they will be good for my ego, and hence my career. These affairs are to last 72 hours apiece, or less, will be physical, spiritual and intellectual in nature, and can be with either men or women. If you wish to have an affair with me, draw a heart on the title page of my book. You may also elect to draw any other bodily organ, which may increase or decrease your chances, depending on my mood that day. I will examine you, and if I choose you, I will put an arrow through your heart, or other organ. You will then be taken to a special corner where you will wait for me until I declare it is time for the affair to begin. We will share such tender moments, together. Now, on with today’s piece.
Guatemala City, August 2000
Perhaps the most advantageous aspect of literary celebrity, as I am now learning, is that you can control every single thing that happens to you. The world bows prostrate at your holy feet, and your mandates are close to, if not actually, words from God. I have realized that, when you are a famous writer, the magazine and newspaper folk cover you not because they want to, but because they need to; they are gripped by a moral imperative stronger than anything in their previous experience. Indeed, over the last few months, I have felt like the boy in that legendary episode of The Twilight Zone: Whatever I imagine comes true.
Therefore, what you are about to read is a reliable guide, because I have deemed it so. It is, or will be, my life, writ. Not everything predicted below is happy fate, because fate is not always happy. But fate it is, and I am fated to it. So read this and understand, my friends, for my destiny is that of every writer.
Sept. 5 My debut Boston performance at the Coolidge Corner is pronounced a success by all who witness it live, and by those who watch it on closed-circuit television in more than 1,000 New England taverns. I meet Zadie Smith.
Sept. 6 Zadie Smith and I get drunk in Cambridge before and after my reading. We consolidate our hotel rooms.
Sept. 7 Photo shoot for Spin. Guest shot for CNBC from floor of NYSE. I am mobbed by sycophants and well-wishers at Galapagos, in Brooklyn. My reading cannot be heard over the screams of several hundred teenage girls in the audience. “Sorry, girls,” I say. “I’m with Zadie now.”
Sept. 9 Salon Table Talk discussion board rolls on: “Neal Pollack: Greatest Living American Writer, or Insidious Monster?” Also, I have a chance encounter with Heidi Julavits at a wedding.
Sept. 10 Zadie flies back to London to lobby for Booker Prize.
Sept. 12 On camera, Charlie Rose asks me if I’m happy. “Ecstatic, Charlie,” I reply. Later, Heidi Julavits and I are overcome by passion for each other at New Yorker cocktail party in our mutual honor.
Sept. 13 The kindly, simple people of Philadelphia receive me in their hard-working arms.
Sept. 14 In Washington, my meeting with the editorial board of The New Republic falls apart after partisan bickering. My lunch with George Stephanopoulous suffers a similar demise. I reject an offer to become Al Gore’s chief speechwriter, as I believe that a vote for Bush is a vote for Nader.
Sept. 22 Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley attempts to present me with the key to his city. I punch him in the face. He cries.
Sept. 25 In Madison, Wisconsin, I am photographed by the Associated Press while weeping at my great-grandfather’s grave. I meet Lorrie Moore, who praises me.
Sept. 26 I appear on all three major morning talk shows to talk about my great-grandfather. Mayor Daley declares imminent construction of 100,000 units of low-income housing, citing my “unique moral influence.”
Oct. 1 Time cover story: Is Neal Jesus? Newsweek cover: Does Neal Take His Vitamins? US News and World Report cover: Nader Pulls Ahead!
Oct. 3 Zadie Smith is sought in an assault on Heidi Julavits. A photographer for the Sun spots me nuzzling Lorrie Moore in a Toronto café.
Oct. 6 “Neil Pollock,” a mysterious figure who will only admit to living in Chelsea, begins publishing highly-imitative fiction at his new website, “neilpollock.com.”
Oct. 9 My sister Margot admits in a phone conversation to a friend that, in 1982, I called her “stupid.”
Oct. 11 A 15-year-old high-school sophomore from Laughlin, Nevada, reports on the Internet that I had sex with my intern, Matthew Fogel, and attempted to cover up the affair.
Oct. 12 I hold a press conference in San Francisco. “I did not not have sexual relations with that man, Mr. Fogel,” I say.
Oct. 13 Powell’s Bookstore, in Portland, Oregon, cancels my appearance, citing my “unique lack of moral influence.”
Oct. 14 Matthew Fogel holds a press conference in New Haven, Connecticut, saying that he has never met me, much less had sex with me. I sell 75,000 copies of my book in one day. The people of Iceland work overtime.
Oct. 17 In Vancouver, I hork a bongful of primo B.C. bud. The New York Post does an article on “Neil Pollock—America’s Hottest Writer.”
*Oct. 20 A 9-year-old girl from Wheeling, West Virginia, prints, on her website, a transcript of my sister Margot’s phone conversation with her friend. The girl calls me a “sinister and dangerous force—an American cancer.”
Oct. 21 Margot holds a press conference in support of my book. Sales soar above the 500,000 mark. The people of Iceland are getting very, very tired.
Oct. 23 “Neil Pollock” admits to the New York Observer that he is an unsuccessful performance artist named Jeremy Puccini, and that his website is his revenge because I refused to have an affair with him.
Oct. 25 Zadie Smith is arrested trying to sneak into my hotel room in Albuquerque. Heidi Julavits is arrested with bomb-making materials in Chicago. I am arrested for making harassing phone calls to Lorrie Moore. Joyce Carol Oates arrests herself and writes a novel about the experience.
Oct. 27 Harper’s reprints Margot’s phone transcripts, and spells both our names wrong.
Oct. 29 “Kneel Pulak” begins publishing highly-imitative fiction on his website, “kneelpulak.com.” It is immediately obvious to everyone that “Kneel Pulak” is really John Irving.
Oct. 31 My book tour ends as I make sweet, strange love to Anne Rice in a New Orleans graveyard.
Nov. 7 Ralph Nader is elected President of the United States and announces a “Neal Pollack backlash” in his acceptance speech.
Nov. 8 The New York Times publishes a profile of me headlined “Old News, and Not So Funny.”
Nov. 18 Sales top the one million mark. I move to Finland.
Dec. 24 Disguised as a minor Christian saint, I deliver presents to your house with my team of flying reindeer.
Jan. 1 The millennium turns, for good this time. I am never heard from again.