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Balsamic Dreams: A Short But Self-Important History of the Baby Boomer Generation Hardcover – June, 2001

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.; 1st edition (June 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805067205
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805067200
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.9 x 9.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,011,517 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews 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

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.

Customer Reviews

Like "everyone's stupid and I hate everything."
Oh, Balsamic Dreams is amusing, as Joe Queenan mocks himself as well as his generation, it does, however, get old, as he obviously is.
Rebecca Brown
The first ten pages or so of his book are mildly amusing, but after that it becomes an ordeal.
JW Barney

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 26 people found the following review helpful 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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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Marceau Ratard on November 4, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I have a confession to make. I was born in 1973, and ever since I was a kid all I've heard is how the baby boomers have done everything. No matter what was being discussed, it had been done before by some boomer. It seems that somehow every concievable thing was done in the 60's and 70's. We could be talking about music, politics, beer, ANYTHING. So here I am a genration X'er who detests boomers and I see this book. I read it in a day and I loved it. It does not have the stinging insults like George Carlin, rather it consists of well thought out, well-written attacks on the boomers as a whole. Queenan picks on music, SUV's, the whole greatest generation bit, how great the 60's were, boomers facination with options, and over-stimulated kids with moronic names like Dakota. I loved it, he does this well without name calling (I would have liked some name calling). He does point out some of dumb stuff about my generation, like our obsession with coffee shops (I buy my coffee at gas stations) and extreme sports. The book is a worthwile read and you'll think about it whenever you are gettting a lecture about how your music is just a rip-off of Alice Cooper, The Doors, Led Zeppelin, pick a boomer band (When a 24 year-old tells me that he thinks the Led Zeppelin is the greatest ban ever, I usually want to throw up). I you hate boomers you'll love the book (not all boomers are bad, but as a whole they stink). If you are a boomer, read the book and change your ways or else it is a nursing home for you when you get old.
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56 of 75 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 13, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Considering how minuscule were the circulations of both Spy and Movieline, the magazines for which he wrote, I would imagine that most folks were first exposed to Joe Queenan, as I was, on Imus in the Morning. He's absolutely hilarious there : his sarcastic style is ideally suited to the format and he's got Imus continually directing him to new topics at which to spew venom. But after reading several of his books--all of which I've liked, but not loved--I'm beginning to wonder if he doesn't need a better editor to bring some form to his very funny observations.
Queenan's latest book, Balsamic Dreams, is intended to be an indictment of the Baby Boomer Generation, of which he is an embarrassed member. He's operating in what Norman Schwarzkopf might call a target rich environment here, and almost inevitably much of what he has to say is very amusing, even laugh-out-loud funny in places. But somehow, it's not as good a book as it should be.
There are a couple of problems. For one thing, he's really written a series of interconnected essays rather than one sustained indictment. This makes for some rather distracting disorganization and some truly annoying repetition. Worse, he periodically himself gets distracted from the task at hand. I thoroughly enjoyed his attacks on the so-called Greatest Generation and on Gen-X, but in these sections of the book he's essentially defending the Boomers, rather than garroting them, which is what we'd prefer.
The other problem isn't so much structural, it's ideological. Queenan's thesis is that the Boomers started out well, but then sold out. He repeatedly gives them credit for "the Freedom Riders.
Read more ›
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Brian D. Rubendall HALL OF FAME on January 7, 2003
Format: Paperback
Getting into the spirit of things, I am going to write the short but self important review to tell you about "Balsamic Dreams: A Short but Self-Important History of the Baby Boomer Generation." Queenan is perhaps the most intellectual non-political humorist writing today. With "Basalmic Dreams" he turns his sharp wit against what he sees as the many "crimes" of his own generation. And what a ripe target for satire. Queenan is able to skewer Boomer pomposity and hypocrisy with the kind of detail that could only come from someone who has walked among them.
That said, the book starts slowly. Queenan's last book (the hilarious "Red Lobster, White Trash and the Blue Lagoon") saw him actually experiencing things. "Balsalmic Dreams," however, reads more like an essay, and it takes Quenan about half the book to really get warmed up. By the time he comes to the Chapter entitled "What a Fool Believes" and deservedly lambastes Tom Brokaw's silly notion of "The Greatest Generation," the book becomes laugh out loud funny. Queenan goes on to portray an alternative version of American History told as if Boomer values had been held by historical figures. Under this scenerio, Thomas Jefferson is impeached for having an affair with his "nanny" and Abraham Lincoln delivers a touchy-feely Gettysburg Address.
In the end, "Basalmic Dreams" is properly subtitled. It is indeed short at a mere 210 pages and it reeks of self-importance (in a self-effacing way). It is also quite funny, especially in the second half. Hopefully, its readership will also get its message and learn to "mellow out."
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