Never Mind the Pollacks: A Rock and Roll Novel by Neal Pollack (HarperCollins), 260 pages, $36.95 cloth. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Neal Pollack has crafted a satirical novel that skewers both rock 'n' roll and the journalists who create its idols. Think Forrest Gump (on acid) meets This Is Spinal Tap. The story follows rock critic Paul St. Pierre on his quest to write legendary rock critic Neal Pollack's biography.
Yes, the deceased bad boy shares the same name as the author, and the novel reads like a who's who of rock.
Pollack ties fact with fiction tighter than a Gordian knot. There are many scenes that I wish were true. For instance, the character Neal turns a fresh-faced gentle youth named James Osterberg into Iggy Pop and joins a bathtub scene with Iggy and Dee Dee Ramone.
Neal (again the character) began life as Norbert Pollackovitz, son of Vernon and Gladys.
Elvis Presley plays at Norbert's bar mitzvah and renames him Neal Pollack. How is Neal's musical career launched? Elvis accidentally runs Vernon over, freeing both Neal and Gladys from their mundane existence.
Neal then embarks on a magical mystery tour to fulfill his own musical and spiritual quest, to find The One. He follows many potential rock messiahs, only to cast them aside as false prophets. He bumps into Rolling Stone magazine founder Jann Wenner, follows him to his office and gets offered a job as a music critic. His first review is a paragraph of randomly struck typewriter keys. He's fired.
So begins the self-destructive pattern of Neal Pollack's life, a character who mainlines cough syrup and follows it up with drain cleaner and a bourbon chaser.
OK, so it's Forrest Gumpish. But it is hysterical to read (and picture) Neal rescuing Dee Dee Ramone from the glam rock scene and pestering Joey Ramone to let him join the band (as Smokey Ramone).
It's only rock and roll, but I like it.
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