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Feature Wed Nov 19 2008
by Jason Behrends
Fatherhood is a complex journey filled with joy, pain, confusion -- all of the best and stickiest moments of life. No matter your age or status or lifestyle, the moment your first child is born everything changes. From your perspective, life begins to take on a whole new meaning, a well-defined purpose. There are responsibilities, a reaction to each action, and your nights begin to shrink. While standing in the hospital holding the new life that you created, there are flashes of your future self that begin to pop and snap. The first tooth, first step, first day of school, first dance, first boyfriend/girlfriend, blurs of game nights and football games, tea parties and story time, your life has suddenly become real, substantial, and the next step is one you will never forget.
For Neal Pollack, that next step as a writer was to share his experience. There are many parents out there that don't reach out and talk honestly about the joys and struggles of parenting. Luckily for Neal, he was already an accomplished writer and journalist and since the birth of his son he has published a novel called Alternadad, created an interactive webzine called Offsprung and contributes regularly to parents.com. Through sharing his stories he is able to entertain, but he is also helping parents as they begin their new lives.
Recently, Neal was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.
Gapers Block (GB): Where some may get consumed by fatherhood and possibly lose focus in their writing, you have reinvented yourself through fatherhood. Was there ever a time when you felt you couldn't be both a writer and father?
Neal Pollack (NP): I never really had a choice, since writing is the only way I've ever made a living. With the birth of my son, suddenly I had actual financial responsibilities, as opposed to my previous needs of keeping myself in beer and videogames. The loss of focus isn't really for me to judge, but being a dad has, I think, honed my ability to make a living, if not my abilities as a writer. When I waste work time, there's no recovering it, because my previous recovery time is now taken up by important dad stuff like fast-forwarding through the commercials during the Clone Wars on Friday night.
GB: Where did the idea for Offsprung come from? Have you been happy with the site thus far?
NP: I was looking for a community of like-minded parents like the one missing in Alternadad, the kind of place I wish Regina and I had when we were new parents. I originally intended the site as a parenting humor/parody site, and that never quite evolved. Instead, it became its own thing, and now serves as the primary internet home for many wonderful people. It's been less financially lucrative than I'd hoped, but as a creative/artistic/journalistic endeavor, I couldn't be happier with how it's turned out. I always wanted my own magazine, and then I created one, and it's been a blast.
GB: Not there isn't humor in Alternadad, but why did you choose to make this non-fiction and not your typical satire?
NP: My satire usually makes fun of literary genres, and I wasn't really interested in making fun of dad-lit, largely because it didn't really exist when I started writing the book. Each book has its own process and internal logic, and it quickly became obvious that this would be a personal story. Alternadad was kind of emotional triage for me; I was way too close to the situation to write it as arch satire.
GB: I've read there are talks of a screenplay and movie for Alternadad, who should play you in the movie?
NP: If a movie of Alternadad ever gets made, I would pretty much take whoever they cast, not that I'd have a say, mind you. Paul Rudd would be nice, though.
GB: Having lived in both Chicago and LA, Chicago writers are the best, right? Seriously, why did you leave Chicago and how has your experience as a writer been different in LA?
NP: I wouldn't say Chicago writers are the BEST, but I certainly know some great ones. There are good and bad writers wherever you go. I would say, however, that Chicago READERS are pretty great. That's the real difference between Chicago and L.A., lit-wise. In L.A., you can have "fans" of your work, but very few people actually read. In Chicago, people are perhaps more critical, but at least they pay attention. That said, I like being a writer in L.A. because no one hassles you. There are so many people grabbing for the gold ring. You're just one of a million worms trying to feed on the same corpse.
GB: You are a pretty big sports fan, in fact you write a sports column for LA CityBeat, were you torn at all when the evil Dodgers stomped on the lovable losers?
NP: While I like the Cubs and respect the agony of their fans, I grew up on the West Coast and have been a Dodgers fan all my life. Therefore, the Dodgers' steamrolling of the North Side was actually one of the best four-day periods of the decade for me. It was exhilarating and glorious. Sorry, guys.
GB: You have already accomplished quite a bit, what's next for Neal Pollack?
NP: I'm writing a book about yoga, to be published by Harper Perennial in May 2010.
Neal Pollack will read alongside Columbia College students Holly Fisher, Colt Foutz, Mason Johnson, Grant Mahoney, Nick Narbutas, Abigail Sheaffer, Harlan Vaughn and Toni White on Thursday, November 20th from 6-9pm at 731 S. Plymouth Court