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BALSAMIC DREAMS by Joe Queenan Kirkus Star


A Short But Self-Important History of the Baby Boomer Generation

by Joe Queenan

Pub Date: June 5th, 2001
ISBN: 0-8050-6720-5
Publisher: Henry Holt

A sardonic, often laugh-out-loud puncturing of Baby Boomer pretensions.

Queenan (Confessions of a Cineplex Heckler, 2000, etc.) ridicules fellow Boomers not just for selling out but for acting unbearably sanctimonious about doing so. Even as they hurtle toward senescence, they remain “as convinced of their uniqueness as the Bolsheviks, as persuaded of their genius as the Victorians, as self-absorbed as the Romantics, [and] as prosperous as the ancient Romans.” Don’t look for a well-organized indictment here. Instead, it’s best simply to “go with the flow” (to use the generational patois frequently lampooned here) of this Dennis Miller–style rant against the pop-culture detritus of what the author terms, with cheerful lack of restraint, “the most obnoxious people in the history of the human race.” Sometimes the irony becomes tiresome, but, more often than not, Queenan hits the mark, particularly in pointing to Boomers’ annoying contributions to culture—not only balsamic vinegar but message T-shirts, male ponytails, “tag-team” eulogies, childrearing habits, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and, most hilariously, Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen’s Experience Music Project in Seattle (a “garish, ludicrous monument that a New Age Ozymandias built to himself”). Still basking in the afterglow of the civil-rights and antiwar movements, Boomers now thrive on retroactive political correctness. Imposing their values on dead historical figures, Queenan suggests, indulges their tendency to “pick a fight they can’t possibly lose.” In two of the better tongue-in-cheek sections, Queenan acts as historian (identifying the 1971 release of Carole King’s Tapestry as the moment that caused the Boomers’ downward spiral) and futurologist (e.g., proposing taxpayer-funded pensions for rock stars so they can stop touring).

A scathing dissection of the lamest generation in all their latte-loving vainglory.