"RED LOBSTER, WHITE TRASH AND THE BLUE LAGOON: Joe Queenan's America" by Joe Queenan


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A slim, one-joke stab at pop-cult criticism from journeyman humorist Queenan (The Unkindest Cut, 1995, etc.). For 18 months, beginning with the musical Cats (""the worst thing on the entire planet""), Queenan immersed himself in the dregs of popular culture. He dined at Red Lobster and the Olive Garden, read Robin Cook and Robert James Waller, listened to Kenny G., Yanni, and John Tesh, watched the sequels of sequels of forgettable movies, such Body Chemistry IV and Children of the Corn III, and traveled to those meccas of bad taste, Branson, Mo., and Atlantic City. It's an amusing idea for an article but, at least in Queenan's hands, insufficient for a book. There's more padding here than in a La-Z-Boy recliner, more fluff than in all the touring companies of Cats. Queenan's research seems to have rubbed off on his writing: It's remarkably structureless, and the invective is usually playground-witty. While most of his encounters with the bad are predictable--hit-and-run ad hominem lambastings of the usual suspects--he does find some semi-precious gems in the rough. Sizzlers is surprisingly tasty: ""an eloquent symbol for all that is best about American cheap food, and lots of it."" Wayne Newton, Barry Manilow, and Andy Williams are hardworking and entertaining troupers. And Las Vegas could have been a lot worse. One of the best things about the book is its index, including such entries as, ""Aykroyd, Dan, when coupled with 'Starring,' 2 scariest words in English language,"" or ""Davis, Jr., Sammy, unforgivable crimes of."" In his travels through the badlands, Queenan frequently experiences what he calls ""scheissenbedauren,"" a feeling of regret ""when things you do expect to suck do suck, but not as much as you would secretly like them to suck."" Readers familiar with Queenan's labored oeuvre will understand this feeling all too well.

Pub Date: July 4th, 1998
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Hyperion