Sunday, January 06, 2008

Review: The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature

The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature, by Neal Pollack
7/10, with an asterisk, a parody of self-important American male writers

The problem with picking up a parody when you're unfamiliar with the source material, as I noted, is that it's often difficult to appreciate the humor. Hence the asterisk in the rating: the footnote would be that this is an audience-specific book, and the audience it is specific to does not include me.

That said, a funny thing happened as I read more of the book: I started enjoying it. There were points where it became so absurd that it didn't matter that I didn't know the source material. Pollack definitely has a good eye for description and detail, and if the ego-driven writing was tedious to start with, the repetition became more entertaining as the book went on. It might also be that in the essays at the end of the book, Pollack's persona is less gloriously successful, falling more into the pattern of the bumbler convinced of his own godhood than an actual accomplished writer who happens to be an egomaniac. That's inherently more amusing, and the essays reflected that.

I was tempted not to finish this book when I was about halfway through, but in the end I'm glad I did. The McSweeney's crowd has always intrigued me, and now I'm a little more familiar with their work and can feel cheerfully informed about staying away from it.

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