In short, this description serves no purpose save to portray the cartoonish ideas of the main characters about the seemingly equally cartoonish secondary characters. The tale does not benefit one iota from the knowledge of the man with the smoke, the state of the man’s hair, nor the color nor shape of the stain on the man’s shirt. While this, if it were the only instance of such a pointless digression, would not be a problem, in and of itself, the fact is that the tale, and the other seventeen tales that follow it in the book, consist mainly of such lackluster and pointless detailing substituting for any depth or insight into the characters.
In fact, I’d estimate each tale could be whittled by anywhere from 30-70% with the elimination of such pointless descriptions, and the actual tales would all improve. And, as if to illustrate my above point, only half a page later, Pollock goes on even a longer and more pointless digression:
Suddenly, a man wearing black-framed glasses stepped from his place in line at the urinal and tapped my old man on the shoulder. He was the biggest sonofabitch I’d ever seen; his fat head nearly touched the ceiling. His arms were the size of fence posts. A boy my size stood behind him, wearing a pair of brightly colored swimming trunks and a T-shirt that had a faded picture of Davy Crockett on the front of it. He had a waxy crew cut and orange pop stains on his chin. Every time he took a breath, a Bazooka bubble bloomed from his mouth like a round pink flower. He looked happy, and I hated him instantly.
Now, is this atrocious writing, in and of itself? No - it’s merely generic, but, again, it’s the aggregation of dozens and dozens of superfluous passages like this which make Pollock’s prose such a slog. After all, if one is chewing Bazooka bubble gum, and you say it blooms and looks like a flower, need the color pink be mentioned? No.
And, furthermore, there is not a detailed thing within this passage that serves any further point in the narrative. This tale, and all of Pollock’s tales in this book, are not Hitchcock films where such details play any significant role (i.e., real clue or MacGuffin). And, the point of all of this is that this sort of writing is such standard issue writing program tripe that its utter triteness totally belies the claims that Pollock is somehow a writer of originality or power. In fact, he is wholly generic, and indistinguishable from the thousands of poor deluded souls that apply for MFA programs.