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Eminent Hipsters by Donald Fagen
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Eminent Hipsters (2013)

by Donald Fagen

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932197,962 (3.57)16
The "musician, songwriter, and cofounder of Steely Dan reveals the cultural figures and currents that shaped his artistic sensibility, as well as offering a look at his college days and a hilarious account of life on the road"--Dust jacket flap.

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I won this in the Goodreads First Reads giveaway, although I already had it on library hold at the time I entered. I enjoyed it but I'm not sure I would have bought it; the book really is that short, just 159 pages--and half those pages are the 2012 Dukes of September tour diary. I did enjoy the essay portions, particularly the essay on Henry Mancini.
  bunnygirl | Mar 5, 2014 |
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“Eminent Hipsters” is as bleakly funny about the aging rocker’s plight — What’s he going to write songs about? His kidney stones? — as Steely Dan always has been about its perversely chosen subjects. If you’d like to know what the lyrics to their song “Deacon Blues” were really about, and whether it has to be played at an Alabama tour stop just because it mentions Alabama, take comfort: Mr. Fagen’s cranky new incarnation is just as thornily entertaining as his cranky old one.
 
This book is a piece of pure bliss, and it's not even the book I thought or hoped it would be. When they said a memoir by Donald Fagen was on the way it seemed reasonable to assume that the co-founder of Steely Dan would be reflecting on the run of seven LPs between 1972 and 1980 that constitute one of the greatest oeuvres in American rock, and would thereby shine a light on the famously enigmatic lyrics with which he and his partner Walter Becker used to bamboozle us. For instance, in "Brooklyn Owes the Charmer Under Me", who or what was the charmer? Could it be true that the strolling blues "Chain Lightning", from their 1975 album Katy Lied, was actually about two old Nazis surreptitiously meeting in a Uruguayan square to mark the 40th anniversary of Hitler's rise to power? Oh, and can pretzel logic be taught?
added by Nickelini | editThe Guardian, Anthony Quinn (Nov 13, 2013)
 
It’s characteristic that the author knows what his readers want—the story of Steely Dan—and refuses to give it to them.
added by Nickelini | editKirkus Reviews (Oct 22, 2013)
 
As you can tell from this, the 65-year-old American, a proud snark in his youth, has matured into a rabidly grumpy old man. But thankfully age has not stripped him of his keen wit and nose for elegant prose. Rock stars are not necessarily sensitive wordsmiths or deep self-analysts by nature – their life stories, documenting a rake’s progress through narcotics and women, tend to be tossed off as record sales dwindle. In his usual contrary fashion, Fagen has decided instead to create a collage of writing made up of critical essays (some previously published) on the cultural heroes or “eminent hipsters” of his youth, combined with his recent tour diary.
 
I’d hoped this book might confirm my notion of Fagen as a dark lord of nebbishy cool. I eagerly anticipated dish about Fagen groupies (surely a unique, beguiling breed of woman) and tales of dissipated, sun-bleached, ‘70s California angst.

No dice. For one, Fagen eschews the typical memoir form and instead pieces together something he terms an “art-o-biography.”
 
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You may be thinking, oh no, another rock-and-roll geezer making a last desparate bid for mainstream integrity by putting out a book of belles lettres.
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You'll find that many chapters in this book are about people and things that intersected with my life when I was a kid. I apologize up front: I tried to grow up. Honest. Didn't quite happen.
I always associate Northern California with the late sixties when I spent some time there. The hippie stuff was fun for about five minutes and then, by late '67, the barbarism had set in.
     A typical story: A woman I know made the mistake of accepting the invitation of a famous hippie songwriter to spend the day on his houseboat in Mendocino, where he proceeded to beat the hell out of her and, for a time, kept her there at gunpoint. Luckily, she escaped and told her friend Sonny Barger, then president of the Oakland Hells Angels, about it. Sonny sent a crew roaring upstate, where they worked the guy over and burned down his boat. In those days of love and peace, you'd hear that stuff all the time.
By the way, I'm not posting this journal on the Internet. Why should I let you lazy, spoiled TV Babies read it for nothing in the same way you download all those songs my partner and I sacrificed our entire youth to write and record, not to mention the miserable, friendless childhoods we endured that left us with lifelong feelings of shame and self-reproach we were forced to countervail with a fragile grandiosity and a need to constantly prove our self-worth—in short, with the sort of personality disorders that ultimately turned us into performing monkeys?
Incidentally, by "TV Babies" I mean people who were born after, say, 1960, when television became the robot caretaker of American children and therefore the principal architect of their souls. I've actually borrowed the term from the film Drugstore Cowboy, in which Matt Dillon, playing a drug addict and dealer, uses it to refer to a younger generation of particularly stupid and vicious dealers who seem to have no souls at all.
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