June 2001

Fear and self-loathing in Boomerland

By Joe Queenan
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A columnist for The New York Times, author Joe Queenan had a bestseller in 1998 with Red Lobster, White Trash, and the Blue Lagoon, a critique of pop culture that skewered everything from fast food restaurants to John Tesh concerts. His latest, Balsamic Dreams: A Short But Self-Important History of the Baby Boomer Generation, is equal parts humor and venom, a book written by a Boomer and filled with all the angst that has characterized that age group since the introduction of the Hula Hoop. Applying his razor wit to his own generation, Queenan charts its course from the sacrifices of the '60s to the excesses of the '80s from activism to materialism. A good-natured grump, he has fun taking his generation to task, and this kind of self-loathing, mixed with his social commentary, always makes for belly laughs. "A friend of mine once remarked that when Baby Boomers are old and decrepit, no one is going to go out and make a Saving Private Ryan commemorating their finest hour," he writes. "They didn't have a finest hour." Queenan often writes tongue-in-cheek, but at times his commentary has all the subtlety of an in-your-face raspberry. For Boomers, the best kind of comic is an angry one and, with his own choleric brand of humor, Queenan carries on that tradition splendidly. Survivors of the '60s will laugh all the way through this satire and then they will hate Queenan for writing it, which is what he wants, for only in being hated by others of his generation can he feel good about himself. It's a Boomer thing.

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