Reader’s Pollack Nets Raves With New Book

Unique publishing deal allows rookie author to keep all the profits.

According to Neal Pollack’s “official” Web site, he is the “greatest living American writer.”

It’s not clear if the Chicago Reader staff writer is referring to the self-absorbed literary icon he calls “Neal Pollack,” or if he’s writing about himself. What is certain, however, is that the 30-year-old ironist known as Neal Pollack is hot.

A few months ago, Pollack’s “The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature,” became the first book ever published by McSweeney’s, a quarterly journal and Web site started by Dave Eggers, founder of the late, lamented Might magazine and author of the widely lauded memoir “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.”

In an arrangement that called “so un-traditional publishing it’s almost punk rock,” Pollack did not get an advance but will receive 100 percent of the profits from the sale of the book.

“Anthology” has received favorable reviews from a host of alternative newspapers, mainstream dailies and glossy magazines. For instance, Rolling Stone gushed, “One of the greatest satires of authorial vanity to come along since the actual career of Norman Mailer.”

Apparently, Pollack’s satire has left some readers more than a little confused. Earlier this month, a critic at the San Diego Union-Tribune, reviewing excerpts from the book that were published in Men’s Journal, claimed that Pollack is Eggers’ alter ego. The review prompted Pollack’s mother to e-mail a rebuttal to the paper defending her son’s existence.

Widely-respected Reader film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum will soon release two books. “Movie Wars: How Hollywood and the Media Conspire to Limit What Films We Can See” (A Cappella Books) examines the packaging, distribution, and promotion of American movies. The second book, “Dead Man,” is a monograph on the Jim Jarmusch movie published by the British Film Institute and Indiana University.

In a Random House public poll conducted last year, Rosenbaum’s “Placing Movies” was voted the 99th best nonfiction book of the 20th century.