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Alternadad Hardcover – January 9, 2007

4.3 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

His novel Never Mind the Pollacks, a hilarious treat, used a fictional "Neal Pollack" to parody the excesses and idiocy of current pop culture. But his self-awareness becomes more self-indulgent (though still witty) in this straightforward memoir of life with his artist wife, the couple's decision a few years ago to have a baby and the attendant strains that his son, Elijah, wreaks on their hipster lifestyle. Pollack details the kind of problems that can be found in almost every memoir on child-rearing, from how to clean up baby poop to figuring out how best to be a "Dad" while being a friend. But he never really defines what it is that makes his parenting so alternative other than that he wants to be a parent and still get high and stay out late. Nevertheless, Pollack hasn't lost his flair for tongue-in-cheek commentary ("I'd begun exerting cultural control over my son; I was going to shape his mind until he was exactly like me"). (Jan.)
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From Booklist

Pop-culture writer Pollack has a reputation as a fun-loving, party-going hipster. For years he danced awkwardly from relationship to relationship, until he found the person he was looking for and settled down (sort of). Now we learn his deep, dark secret: he loves his little boy, loves him with a goofy, all-consuming love that makes him (and the reader) break out into smiles nearly constantly. This book, which recounts the author's transition from hipster guy to hipster dad, is both laugh-out-loud funny and cry-softly poignant. Written in Pollack's in-your-face, no-holds-barred style, it just may be the most offbeat book about parenting ever written, and fans of the author's previous, equally idiosyncratic books--including that pop-culture staple The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature (2000)--will be utterly enraptured. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon (January 9, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375423621
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375423628
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,642,698 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Although I preferred the author's prior "Neal Pollack" persona, I found Alternadad to be an enjoyable read. At its best, Pollack's writing here reminds me vaguely of Nick Hornby's fiction about men-children assuming new responsibilities (High Fidelity, About a Boy) and David Sedaris's essays, which often portray intensely human moments against the backdrop of dysfunctional family relationships. You can get a sense of what Pollack's new voice is like if you visit his eponymous nealpollack blog.

The memoir covers Pollack's journey from privileged teen in the high upper middle class suburbs of Phoenix to mid-30s college graduate with wife and child. Along the way, he establishes that he and his wife pursue a nonconformist lifestyle, refusing to work for anyone but themselves. He is a freelance writer, and she is an artist. He also writes candidly about his relationship with pot. If this book had been published in the early 1990s, I'm sure Pollack and his wife would have been labeled Gen X slackers. (The vogue term, apparently, is hipsters.)

The choice of a nonconformist lifestyle has its costs, including downward mobility. Much of Alternadad describes the trials, tribulations, and tensions the Pollacks endure shortly before and after their son is born. It's clear that they want to be good parents to their son. However, lack of means forces them to confront hard realities. Healthcare isn't cheap. Daycare isn't cheap. An organic diet isn't cheap. Good housing isn't cheap. Pot isn't cheap. The privileged, secure life of the high upper middle class doesn't grow on trees.

At the same time, having a son also presents new non-monetary obligations and responsibilities that tax the do-what-you-want-when-you-want-to aspect of their lifestyle.
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Format: Hardcover
Long before he secured actual, competent representation, I briefly served as Neal Pollack's professional literary agent. Therefore, my opinion may be somewhat biased, in the sense that I feel for him the same kind of weary I felt for all of my old bloodsucking clients, the ones who kept bothering me all day with their money troubles while I was trying to drink brandy and play minesweeper (that means you, Bruce Campbell!)

But I will confess that ALTERNADAD was a complete and happy surprise to me--hilarious, as all Neal's work is, but heartfelt and true. This book is fully deblustered of the old "Neal Pollack, Greatest Living Writer" persona of his seminal early work, replaced instead by an even older "Neal Pollack" going back to his days at the "Chicago Reader:" the just-plain-good-writer full of caustic wit and human sympathy.

This is a story that documents a new kind of hipster parental mood in some respects, but it is really a much simpler story about a man who loves his wife and son. Neal's ability to say just that puts paid to any rumor that he was ever merely a 90's era irony-drenched ha ha man, and makes ALTERNADAD the best third-book debut I've ever read.

That is all.
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Format: Hardcover
After seeing glowing reviews for this book in Texas Monthly and Men's Health, I bought this book with the credit I got for returning a copy of Kinky Friedman's book I'd been given as a gag gift. I read it aloud to my girlfriend as we drove our way down the Oregon coastal highway, and it made the miles fly by. We laughed along, cooed at the cute pics of Neal's kid, Elijah, and were deeply shaken by the similarities between our lives and the scene Pollack paints as his pre-daddy days.

Yes, the book has been done before - as in Bill Cosby's Fatherhood and Paul Reiser's Babyhood. But Pollack offers his own alternate edge and provides what may ironically be the definition of mainstream fatherhood for our generation.

I truly appreciate how this book holds nothing back and allows to see Neal's family in its most unvarnished state. There are no (obvious) secrets and nothing is off-limits.

My only criticism of the book is that it seems to run out of steam about 3/4 of the way through the book. And because of the nature of the fact that Elijah and his parents are still growing and learning, there's no conclusion. Nonetheless, I was still left with a need for more closure as I turned the last page of the book. Perhaps that's why I still visit the blog every once in a while.
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Format: Hardcover
Alternadad is a funny, at times touching, memoir of marriage and parenting. Though Pollack is no Sedaris in the humor department (at no point in reading Alternadad did my sides split), credit where it's due: he does have an eye for quirky details, connections, and language. Above all, Pollack emerges from the pages of this memoir as an eminently likeable person, and -- together with his wife -- a seemingly very decent parent: the kind of guy I'd like to hang out with. Having just finished this slightly overlong memoir, I am left only to wonder what's so "Alterna" about this particular dad. Pollack seems pretty much like the next guy, trying to earn a living, provide for his family, instill proper values in his child, etc. (If that's alternative, I'd be curious to know what Pollack considers middle of the road.) In the end, I enjoyed setting a spell with the Pollack family.
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