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Balsamic Dreams: A Short But Self-Important History of the Baby Boomer Generation Paperback – June 1, 2002

2.9 out of 5 stars 68 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

As witty as Michael Lewis, more sarcastic than Bobos in Paradise, bloodthirsty pop culture critic Joe Queenan talks trash about his generation and its "lifestyle über alles philosophy" in his career-capstone screed, Balsamic Dreams. And what distinguishes the baby boomers, in Queenan's acerbic opinion? "They don't ever actually want anything. They just want a huge number of choices.... They have to videotape everything. They have bottomless faith in self-help, though it's obviously not working.... They're stupefyingly self-centered, unbelievably rude, obnoxious beyond belief, and they're everywhere." Queenan bemoans "the frantic attempt by roly-poly middle-aged Republicans [also known as "the Man in the Gray Flannel Track Suit"] to evince an aura of coolness because they possess one (1) Smashing Pumpkins record and two (2) suede jackets with virtually imperceptible leopard spots." He demolishes Paul Allen's Experience Music Project with sentences like buzz bombs. James Ellroy says that Queenan is "half-Calvinist, half-nihilist," and this book proves it. Perhaps most important, Queenan reveals that "middle-aged men who wear baseball caps turned backwards do not look like Puff Daddy. They look like De Niro's doomed moron catcher in Bang the Drum Slowly." --Tim Appelo --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

What distinguishes the baby boomers? According to film and social critic Queenan (Red Lobster, White Trash, and the Blue Lagoon) in this witty, sardonic and heartfelt paen to his fellow aging boomers, they weren't the first generation to sell out "but they were the first generation to sell out and then insist that they hadn't." Deftly distilling the impact of a wide range of events in popular culture, he cites April 21, 1971, as one of "ten days that rocked the world" for boomers, with the release of Carol King's album Tapestry. Meanwhile, recent films such as What Lies Beneath and The Haunting appeal to boomers, he observes, with the message, "Just because you're dead doesn't mean you can't get your life organized." And, he asks, won't someone "admit that La Vita e Bella is Holocaust-denying crap?" Queenan occasionally belabors his humorous conceits (e.g., he ranks baby boomers as the 267th best generation, "right behind the Carthaginians in 220 B.C."). Yet he can also cut to the quick: "We abandoned the poor, the downtrodden and the oppressed [for] postdoctoral work in American Studies.... We made millionaires out of nitwits like Deepak Chopra and Tom Clancy while geniuses starved." (June)Forecasts: Queenan's broad, well-defined audience will eat up this cultural criticism lite. With a 12-city author tour and national print ad campaign timed for Father's Day, this self-proclaimed sellout will sell big.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (June 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031242082X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312420826
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,108,373 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jeffrey M. Richardson on May 26, 2001
Format: Hardcover
What Queenan does is hold up a mirror so that we Boomers can see ourselves, and yes, what he shows us is ugly, but it's hilarious to see ourselves through his distorted lens. You will recognize yourself, your friends, and your relatives. And if you appreciate mean humor, you will have a big grin on your face most of the time you read this. This is a book you will want to share. I want all of my friends and fellow Boomers to read it, because it's such fun. I want my father to read it, so that he can see his offspring put into proper perspective. And I really hope that the individuals that Queenan uses to illustrate particularly vile aspects of our smug self-importance read the book and recognize themselves. But it's about all of us Boomers, and all of us will enjoy a good squirm when we read this. The man is funny. This book will bring you pleasure. If it doesn't, you are seriously humor-impaired, and should pass it along to a less handicapped friend, who will then owe you a big favor. Buy this book.
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Format: Hardcover
There is no denying that Balsamic Dreams, by Joe Queenan, is funny, clever, and entertaining to read. But a consequence of being a prolific writer is that readers might read your other books and compare or even prefer them to you latest offering. Such is my assessment of Queenan's most recent book, "Balsamic Dreams," which is subtitled "A Short But Self-Important History of the Baby Boomer Generation.
The book is a loose collection of essays that excoriate, dissect, and firmly pin to the dart board the stereotypical "Baby Boomer" (a term which, with his usual irony, Queenan capitalizes). For Queenan's purposes, the official definition of a Baby Boomer is slightly outside the officially recognized statistical boundaries and includes those born between 1943 and 1960 or 1962. In his "Disclaimer Chapter," Queenan humbly acknowledges his own membership in this group.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Bottom Line First:
Joe Queenan is a capable writer, but if he is capable of being funny Balsamic Dreams is not proof. The Baby Boomer generation is a huge clown faced target over ripe for lampooning, this book is not the lampoon to look for.
:( :( :( :( :( :(
I can just hear readers saying: "But I Know people like that". Ok so do I , that does not make this funny. I know people who are not like that, does that make anything funny?

When Martin Luther posted his indictment of the Roman Catholic Church, a lot of people said "I know Bishops like that!" and " I know Popes like that!" Yet Luther is never listed as a comedian. This is a guy who had Scheisse fights with the devil incarnate and no one reads his essays on the Comedy Channel.

I was really looking forward to Joe Queenan's Balsamic Dreams. I am from the trailing edge of the Boomer Generation. That means I got to watch free love turn to AIDS, before I could properly indulge. I got to observe the "mother nature's best" turn into addiction berore I could be a flower child. I watched as riots in Chicago ruined the election hopes of a democratic candidate just so we could have the Watergate hearings that would end a republican presidency and then have those same graduates of the flower power generation elect Ronald Reagan. Then having tuned out, they then tuned into Rush Limbaugh.

Never mind what your politics may be, this flow of events cries for biting satire. Queenan bites, but he does not understand how to make it funny. It does not help that he guarantees that this book has no future by running long lists of names, mostly of bands, without lifting a finger to explain why he fills pages with those rock musicians he anoints as cool while denying the musicality of those he rates as un-cool.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I picked up this book for a third time when someone who was reading it on my recommendation (at least partly) complained that it wasn't funny.

Some of the jokes are out of date (particularly about 'four equal tranches with the first two splices reverting to the underwriter' and such- there's a lot of 'Chinese paper' under the bridge since then), and as the Boomers have aged fifteen years, some of them have 'gotten off the stage,' (some of them), so that a passage like this is less biting than it originally was:

Get off the stage. One of the things that Baby Boomers hated about their parents’ generation was the refusal of moldy icons like Bob Hope and Bing Crosby to hit the showers. Our attitude back then was: You had your day in the sun; your day in the sun lasted a lot longer than it should have; now get thee hence. But Baby Boomers have done exactly the same thing. Keith refuses to go quietly. Cher still thinks she’s hot. John McEnroe has challenged the Williams sisters to a tennis match. Honestly, is this any way for impending retirees to behave?

What I still like about the book is that amid all the wisecracks, Queenan will deftly slip in some astute observations (I think of it as very Irish. One reason I like Joe Queenan is because he sounds like my friend Mike). Take this, for example, in a chapter about the 'negatively symbiotic' relationship Gen X-ers have with Boomers:

... Then, inevitably, Baby Boomers became mildly nostalgic for the detritus of their youth.
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