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on August 20, 2015
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Some of the jokes are out of date (particularly about 'four equal tranches with the first two splices reverting to the underwriter' and such- there's a lot of 'Chinese paper' under the bridge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. Sensing an opening, Gen Xers moved in and embraced The Brady Bunch, Gilligan’s Island, ABBA, disco and polyester, smirking to one another that because pathetic Baby Boomers were oblivious to the ironic subtext underpinning this mass conversion, Gen X had thereby landed a body blow on the overlords who oppress them on a daily basis. Even though Baby Boomers were unaware of this deft subversive attack, because they were too busy with their own ironic endeavors, and therefore largely impervious to irony concocted by other generations. Meanwhile, the Greatest Generation looks at their watches and wonder how much longer the Grim Reaper’s going to be, because this whole damn society has gone to hell in an irony-suffused, deeply postmodern handbasket.

It's a throwaway line- "the overlords who oppress them on a daily basis," and I don't know if Queenan would stand up in court and defend it, but it does refer to a fairly sophisticated definition of irony, and it's more or less true that the Gen X-ers biggest gripe against Boomers is that they suck huge amounts of wealth away from them 'on a daily basis.'

Two particularly fine set pieces are the one on The Greatest Generation Any Society Has Ever Produced (Queenan is right that this belated kissing up to the Sansabelt generation is in fact more Boomer short-sightedness) and his tour of Seattle's Experience Music Project (Hey, a significant majority of adult white males have a de facto guitar museum in their bedrooms...)

For me, the only chapter which falls flat is the imaginary timeline of a Boomer generation turning out even worse than is has in fact (Jim Morrison survives to play a role in Lords of the Dance.?.. whatever.. didn't get it). So the book is not perfect; but there are very few books I have read three times with such enjoyment, so I won't begrudge the old fart his 'fifth' star (That's a little Joe Queenan rubbing off on me).
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on August 15, 2015
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. By the end of the book it becomes clear that he has never thought about listening to music for the pleasure of listening, he only relates to music as something that is either cool or uncool.

I got to page 106 when I almost smiled for the first time. The subject was hats at funerals.

Chapter 9, American History the B-side could have been funny. He manages to lump together every imaginable politically correct cliche in an effort to write a boomer version of American history. This chapter could have been funny and read alone it might be. After the unrelenting weight of 8 chapters of negativity it is hard to read this in the kind of mood necessary to engender laughter.

Not content to attack the huge target known as the Baby Boomers, he questions the preceding generation's right to the title "The Greatest Generation". Never mind his lame case against the survivors of the dust bowl, the depression and the winners of World War II, he misses what the returning Warriors did to create the mind-set of the Boomer generation. The greatest generation gave us Madison Avenue. Not content to help us decide to buy things we knew we wanted, the Mad Ave of Post WWII learned how to teach us to buy things we had never previously thought about wanting. We were taught to be brand conscious, to assume that we will always be young and to assume the ready availability of choices.

What are some of the most often repeated complaints Queenan repeats most often? Boomers refuse to get old. Boomers expect to have choices and Boomers are particular of the provenance of our Balsamic Vinegar. I suggest that being the first TV generation we were the most lied too generation in history. In fact, Mad Av. made the decision that different age groups were different niches in the market and thereby created the notion of named generations. About the only age group before boomers to have their own name was the so called `lost generation, and that term was never applied to everyone in an age group.

That is a rather serious analysis. It would not have occurred to me to make it except that Balsamic Dreams in failing to be funny invites serious analysis. If only I could understand why Queenan keeps recalling the four dead in Ohio. Hardly a topic for satire and hardly one to be toss around if your goal is to be funny.
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on March 6, 2016
Funny at first, but after a couple of chapters it was just more of the same and sometimes a bit mean-spirited; so I tossed it in the donate box. Believe me, I have made my share of jokes about the self-indulgent members of my generation, but really most of the boomers are just living their lives. Our country at this point in history has made opportunities, possessions, experiences, etc. more available than at any other point. Why shouldn't the boomers take advantage of them?
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on January 25, 2015
Very funny! I'm a baby boomer and I like his witty turn of phrases that described the baby boomers perceptions of the world at large and their role in it.
Some of his assertions about baby boomers I didn't necessarily agree with but still made me laugh out loud.
Othertimes in my modest opinion,he hit the nail right on the head.
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on October 30, 2017
great book by a great author, back arrived promptly as advertised.
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on June 24, 2003
Another fine and funny effort by Mr. Queenan. Lest you think that I enjoyed the book because I wasn't in the "target category," you'd be wrong. Born in 1954, I am a Boomerian. Does Mr. Queenan sometimes exaggerate? Sure he does. But that's his job, folks- he's a humorist! So, let's lighten up out there. Heck, the cover alone is almost worth the purchase price- Queenan with a queasy, "I love everybody," parody-of-the-60's grin- including the obligatory "peace sign." As with all good humor, we laugh because we recognize the truth behind it, whether boulder-sized ( the irony of the hippie generation becoming so incredibly materialistic) or nugget-sized (the "things-were-better-when-I-was-young" syndrome- exemplified by Mr. Queenan's joke concerning boomer-generation music: "Let me tell you something son- I knew Jeff Beck; and Beck is no Jeff Beck"). This book is a yuck-fest from start to finish, including such inspired items as: a multiple choice quiz to test your status as a true Boomer. Sample question- "Match the following Jims with their cause of death: Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Croce.....Airplane Crash, Booze and drugs, Probably just drugs" and a chapter entitled "Ten Days That Rocked The World"- sample date: "December 3, 1967- Ginger Baker sports the first internationally famous male ponytail." Is "Smokin' Joe" sometimes less than perfect? Sure- after all, he misses out on such potential humoristic motherlodes as: the Boomer fascination with "designer (bottled) water"; the abandonment of the 60's-70's "small-is beautiful" philosophy- exemplified best, perhaps, by the switch from buying VW "Beetles" to monster "Hummers" and SUV's; and Boomer failure to admit to any TV viewing unless, of course, it's something on PBS or a foreign "art" film on cable. But, hey, even with what's left out- there's still plenty of laughs, humiliation and embarrassment left for everyone!
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on February 9, 2016
Dull and self-centered as 94% of the generation he's writing about. I'd sell you my copy for under a cent if I hadn't already thrown it in the trash.
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on November 21, 2015
wow! What a painful yet hilarious look at the Baby Boomer Generation. Genius.
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on December 28, 2014
I read a Joe Queenan article in a magazine and couldn't stop laughing. The book was interesting, but not as amusing.
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on February 26, 2012
I found the sample promising and bought the book for my Kindle. The first chapter was okay. After that it's just more of the same corny rant. Like "everyone's stupid and I hate everything." Tiresome. Sophomoric.
One would like to know what the author actually DOES like.
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