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The End of the Beginning of Neal Pollack’s Tour

Adapted From “The Beginning Of The End Of The Tour: Days On The Road With Neal Pollack, A Writer Of Whom I Wish I’d Never Heard,” by Aaron Lipschultz Screenplay by Joshua Lipstein

Aaron Lipschultz, a successful journalist in his late 20s, enters a middle-American diner. There sits Neal Pollack, a mostly-failed novelist in his mid-40s. There are papers strewn all over the table.

LIPSCHULTZ

Hi, I’m —

(Pollack bolts up to shake his hand.)

POLLACK

I know who you are. Wow, it’s so great to meet you!

LIPSCHULTZ

It is?

POLLACK

Yeah, of course. Wow! A reporter from Rolling Stone. Here to interview me. Me, of all people! Who’d have thunk it?

LIPSCHULTZ

Well…

POLLACK

We’re going to have so much fun together for the next five days. I really love to party, even on Shabbat.

LIPSCHULTZ

Five days sounds kind of long…

POLLACK

Oh, that’s cool, whatever you have time for. I’m just so glad you actually showed. It’s been hard for me the last 20 years.

LIPSCHULTZ

Admittedly, I know nothing about you. My editor just assigned me this piece because we wanted to run a “writer on tour” article. Those are always huge with our readership.

POLLACK

Well, you picked the right guy.

LIPSCHULTZ

Franzen wouldn’t do it. Neither would Safran Foer. Or George Saunders. In fact, we asked 25 people and you were the only one who said yes.

POLLACK

Typical.

(He points to the papers in front of him.)

As you can see, I have plenty of clips here for you to read. Covering my entire career. It’s a complete source list, including a couple of ex-girlfriends.

LIPSCHULTZ

This piece will be about 1,000 words.

POLLACK

I also included the Facebook contact information for my high school English teachers.

(He bounces in his chair.)

Oh boy oh boy oh boy! It’s profile time!

(Lipschultz sits down, takes out his iPhone. He presses record.)

LIPSCHULTZ

So, what do you think about the novelist’s place in society?

POLLACK

I think it’s great!

LIPSCHULTZ

Don’t you feel like going on a book tour, reading in front of people for free, is a kind of pretending forced on us by a culture obsessed with fame? Doesn’t it take away from the role of a writer in society?

POLLACK

No way, man! I love it!

(Winks.)

LIPSCHULTZ

But aren’t you kind of a fake celebrity?

POLLACK

I am a real celebrity, in my heart and in my mind I can’t wait to be famous. Bring it on, world.

(Pause.)

POLLACK

Hey, do you have a couple of bucks in quarters? I need to feed the meter.

CUT TO:

Int. Pollack’s 1998 Nissan Sentra, dirty and strewn with garbage. Lipschultz sits in the passenger seat, looking beleaguered. Pollack smokes a joint happily.

POLLACK

(Singing.)

Rolling Stone, wanna see my picture on the cover! Gonna buy five copies for my mother!

(He offers the joint to Lipschultz.)

LIPSCHULTZ

No thanks.

CUT TO:

Int. Small Midwest independent bookstore. Pollack is standing at a podium.

POLLACK

So that’s why I decided to become a writer. Any more questions?

(Pan out to audience. There are five people sitting in an array of chairs set up for 100. All of them are asleep, including Lipschultz.)

POLLACK

OK, then. Before I call it a night, I’d like to read a passage from my fifth novel…

CUT TO:

Int. Crummy hotel room. The clock says 1:45 a.m. Pollack is sitting on the edge of his bed in his underwear. A rumpled, exhausted-looking Lipschultz sits on the opposite bed.

POLLACK

So then I said to Dave Eggers, “If you do decide to have a launch party at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, I would gladly wear a diving suit and pretend to emerge from the ocean covered in garbage. That would be awesome publicity.” And do you know what he said to me?

LIPSCHULTZ

Huh?

CUT TO:

Int. Pollack’s car driving through the Midwest.

POLLACK

So when’s this article going to run? I want to know because I’d like to pinpoint the exact moment when I become super-famous.

LIPSCHULTZ

Not sure yet.

POLLACK

When’s it going to be? When’s it going to be? Am I famous yet? Am I famous? Huh? Huh? Huh?

LIPSCHULTZ

You are out of your mind.

(Pollack taps his temple knowingly.)

POLLACK

That’s what they used to say to Isaac Bashevis Singer and Saul Bellow. But who cares? They’re dead!

CUT TO:

Ext. Gas station. Lipschultz walks into the restroom.

CUT TO:

Int. Crummy gas station restroom. An exhausted Lipschultz puts his hands to his head.

LIPSCHULTZ

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH!

(Lipschultz opens the door. Pollack is standing there.)

POLLACK

Hey man, you OK?

LIPSCHULTZ

I’m fine.

POLLACK

Good, because we still have 175 miles until Iowa City.

LIPSCHULTZ

Ugh.

POLLACK

Do you have 12 bucks for gas?

LIPSCHULTZ

Sure.

POLLACK

Plus like five bucks. I would love some beef jerky.

LIPSCHULTZ

(Sighs.)

Yes, OK. And then I think I’m going to kill you.

POLLACK

Get in line.

(Beat.)

Book tour! Whooo!

Neal Pollack’s most recent novel is “Repeat.”

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