The hip literati had massive swoon attacks over the essay, “Stalking Dave Eggers” by Elizabeth Ellen on Bookslut. In addition to her writing (of course), they loved her honesty, her passion, her boldness. She stalked a great one. Who could fault her for that?
Elizabeth was a lonely writer just starting out. Dave just published a mega-best selling memoir, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.
But this was not just a story about Elizabeth stalking Dave Eggers or her being part of a literary escort service, but a deeper and grander story with a twist–is someone perhaps stalking Ellen?
Elizabeth begins her story with an anecdote about bragging to her six-year-old how one day she will marry Dave Eggers. About a paragraph in after Ellen tells her six year old that Dave Eggers is her boyfriend, she says this:
“Dave Eggers and I were in love. The fact that no one else knew it did not bother me.”
It didn't bother Dave either because he didn't know about it. Elizabeth tries to explain away how she isn't “insane” (too late!) but justifies her phantom emails to Dave Eggers by saying how she was new to the Internet in 2002, which also may have possibly led to the dissolution of her previous marriage.
Elizabeth secretly thought she was sharing emails with Dave Eggers whom she met on a magazine newsgroup and later at a booksigning. Fast foward a couple months to…
“Five months later, in January of 2002, a new person began posting on the thread. The person posted under the name “treacly,” and we knew little about him. I wasn’t the only one who suspected it might be Dave. I was merely the one who suspected it the longest. I was also the only one of us, as far as I know, carrying on all-day e-mail conversations with him, the only one falling in love. “
Elizabeth told this “treacly” character that she thought he was Dave Eggers. They were supposed to meet at the Dave Eggers / Dallas, TX reading. She went to a party and but who did she find waiting for her…
“Neal (Pollack) came over and sat in (her friend's) seat.“Want a glass of sangria?” he said. “How ‘bout a pot cookie? Take one, I’ve already had two.”It’s hard for me now to remember the rest of our conversation. There was the feeling that Neal knew something I didn’t. There was a look of empathy or pity in his eyes. Maybe he was just wasted.Finally, somewhat abruptly, he said, “I can’t do this anymore.”He stood and walked back into the house. I don’t remember seeing him after that. I can’t remember seeing him since.”
It was Neal. Neal Pollack, that is, in the backyard with the pot cookie. The Neal Pollack of Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature, the Alternadad, the McSweeney's darling child of the time. Neal stalked Elizabeth who stalked Dave Eggers.
“Was I in love with Dave? Was I in love with treacly (whoever he was)? Either way, it didn’t matter.”
But wait… Elizabeth never says it was Neal! The shock, the horror of the reveal left undone. Maybe it was too accusatory, too unsavory to do such a thing.
Or as Neal said a few years later in the New York Times, Dave actually broke up with him. A scorned jealous lover blaming another jealous lover. A classic triangle. Perhaps Dave loved Elizabeth all along and was upset at Neal's advances. Either way, it doesn't matter.
Case most definitely closed.