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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
For anyone who has had enough of Eastern mysticism, dinner-party discussions of the provenance of your neighbor's balsamic vinegar, politically correct or trendy euphemism, or the '60s and the generation that made it the defining era of their lives, Joe Queenan is "on the same page." In Balsamic Dreams, Queenan finds a new target for the poison pen that made Red Lobster, White Trash, and the Blue Lagoon a bestselling success: himself, and his unfortunate peers, the Baby Boomer generation.
With his caustic, ironic, and sardonic wit, Queenan delivers a sweeping overview of the Baby Boomers, whom he calls "the most obnoxious people in the history of the human race." In short profile, their general characteristics include "epic self-absorption, staggering greed, a fiendish obsession with staying young, generally dreadful hair"; they speak in "a virulent brand of euphemism," including terms and expressions like "hubris," "mentoring," and "vertical integration"; they suffer from having "never devised an exit strategy from their youth." But as Queenan says, "The single most damning, and obvious criticism that can be leveled at Baby Boomers is, of course, that they promised they wouldn't sell out and become fiercely materialistic like their parents, and then they did. They further complicated matters by mulishly spending their entire adult lives trying to persuade themselves and everybody else that they had not in fact sold out, that they had merely matured and grown wiser.... They had not been the first generation to sell out, but they were the first generation to sell out and then insist that they hadn't."
From their cultish obsession with menus and their ingredients to how they "parent" their children, Queenan delivers an unforgiving profile and history of his generation, including a "Test to Determine if You Are a Baby Boomer," for those who aren't quite sure. He also looks to the past and the future, to compare Boomers with their parents, the "Greatest Generation" (taking a few stabs at Tom Brokaw while he's at it, asking, "If the Greatest Generation was so great, how come they raised horrible children like the Baby Boomers?"), and takes into account the opinion of the Boomers' children, the Gen Xers ("Without exception, they wished we would all die"). He also provides a historical timeline marking "Ten Days That Rocked the World," or, "the pivotal moments in Baby Boomer history where things went awry."
Even if you are not a Baby Boomer, Balsamic Dreams is a hilarious look at the generation that brought you marjoram, box sets, and 50 different varieties of coffee. And if you think Queenan's history is something you don't need to know, remember, "Baby Boomers now occupy most of the important political, economic, and cultural positions in this society, and represent this great nation on the world stage. Yet for the most part, with their dysfunctional refusal to age gracefully and their concomitant inability to get a fashion clue, the entire generation is embarrassing themselves, their children, their parents, the whole country." Tune in, turn on, tune out -- do whatever you need to do, but you should read this book. (Elise Vogel)