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Thursday September 07, 2000, 01:25

Irony would be author Neal Pollack discussing how, while there are women authors whom he enjoys reading, he does not like it when publishers use a naked picture of a woman as the jacket photo in order to sell more books, all the while sitting behind a poster of himself, naked, on a sofa, with a cat placed strategically over any are which might cause offence to those of a more conservative nature, while on a book signing tour.

That is either irony or something else. Is it irony if you intentioally do it? This wasn't a case where he didn't know what he was saying, for that would be true irony. Perhaps we just call this humor.

In any case, it was funny.

And I was not expecting it to be. Before the reading, I was sitting in the audience listening to the author (and by the author I mean Mr. Pollack and not some other author who might have been sitting in the room) talking to some of the audience members and I heard him say, in response to the question as to whether or not all of these works could in fact be found on the internet (and, more specifically, on the mcsweeneys.net site), after a brief pause, "Oh, I'll play it straight. Yes."

This level of frankness in his admission that much of the time he is clearly just fucking with the audience threw me a bit and I noted that I wouldn't have minded if he was actively fucking with the audience at all times, or that he was actively not fucking with the audience at all times. But by taking the time to tell the audience that he was planning on fucking with them, but had chosen at that particular moment not to, I felt that he had destroyed any semblance of credibility he might have once had.

In reality, I realize that this merely enhanced the entire situation, by (and it seems that the term "deconstructing" would be appropriate here, but I can't be sure given that I never did study literary theory in college and have no basis for this other than by hanging out with people much smarter than I which, in itself, I think, makes me rather smart) acknowledging that there is this level of facade in place, and that he (being the author) recognizes this fact and yet will continue to do it because it gets yucks. I did not think this to be so funny at the time, but realize that the motivations behind it didn't really matter as long as over all, the experience was funny.

This seems to fly in the face of everything that I believe about the world, finding myself increasingly annoyed at directors who exclaim "Yes, do that, it will be funny!" while forgetting that funny is not always the best course of action in a theatrical production. And what is a book reading or, more broadly, a public persona, than a large theatrical production. However, I must note that if the production is intended to be a farce then yes, humor is essential and appropriate.

Despite a rather uninteresting and poorly performed introduction by a member of the Billionaires for Bush and/or Gore which failed to amuse or proke thought either in a literary sense or in a political sense, the reading itself provided great insight into Pollack's writing. Following the reading, the author (the same one) fielded questions from the audience as both himself and as Dave Eggers, who was unable to attend the reading citing (through Pollack) a publishing emergency in Iceland. Pollack took one for the team and answered questions in Eggers' voice, informing a McSweeney's fan that his subscription check had not been cashed as it had been left under a melon. (Insert laughter here)

I did end up buying the book. I told the author (Neal) that I had enjoyed the reading though I had been skeptical when I had initially started listening to him read. He seemed unamused and said "hmmm" as he signed my book. Though, he did tell me that he was planning on starting a small cult. "Small?" I asked. "Large," he corrected himself. He was still not amused. "My friend," I said, as I gestured to my friend, "was more skeptical than I." Again, the author said, "Hmmm."

I did not make any new friends tonight.

I did however purchase a copy of the new McSweeney's. Which means that I am now the envy of all of my friends and I will have to read the publication before anyone else gets it or I will be dreadfully uncool.

Also, I don't think I understand most of the things I read in that particular publication. But I buy it because I believe in the power of independent publishing. The same way I believe in the internet, I still believe in the power of a good book, and given that there are so many unpublished works out in the world, there now needs to be an independent literary revolution in much the same way as there are hundreds of small, independent record labels out in the world today.

Please insert your own little rant about independent publishing here. If you feel it approrpiate to share your views via email or through some other form of communication, please do so, and I will, in my newly discovered situation of being unemployed, be sure to mull it over carefully before crafting a reply.

People have not lost faith in the printed word. Its time will come again.

Also note that tonight's masturbatory aids will be a box of Kleenex and McSweeney's #5. Consider that for a moment. Then consider that this was probably an inappropriate thing to say, regardless of what I meant.

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