So Hip It Hurts: Penman on Steely Dan

Penman enjoys Eminent Hipsters a lot more than I do (watch this space), but he gets off some very fine licks:

steely-dan“It’s a portrait of the artist as an embryonic Florida retiree: grumpy, fidgety, fond (his hotel room iPod plays nothing but old Verve jazz or Stravinsky), ungrateful toward fans, snarling at managers, leering at young poolside babes, spiteful to hotel staff. Fagen doesn’t skirt the risk of deep mortification. He leads us round 360 degrees of his touring profile: petty, grouchy, backward-looking, too smug by half. And yet, while it appears to be an entirely truthful account, all the time part of me was thinking: Is this actually the equivalent of a well-crafted Steely Dan character? ‘Deacon Blues‘ on Prozac? As I said to a friend and fellow Dan obsessive, Eminent Hipsters is essentially On the Road with Alvy Singer. In Woody Allen’s Annie Hall (1977), his OCD doppelgänger Singer loathes Los Angeles, but work and romance install him there for months at a time. Allen initially wanted to name his feel-good film after a bleak psychiatric diagnosis: anhedonia, a condition that also seems to cover how Fagen now feels about touring: ‘The inability to experience pleasure from activities usually found enjoyable.’ Like Allen, Fagen seems deeply versed in the language of shrinks and footnotes from the Physicians’ Desk Reference. In the missing years between The Nightfly and resumption of his partnership with Becker, Fagen had a real Freudian schlep of therapy, and much (legal) pharmaceutical rewiring. While you still wouldn’t call him a little ray of sunshine, these efforts seem to have done a lot to revamp his subsequent life: marriage, uninterrupted work, a relative cessation of hostilities with the media. While the other Donald might conceivably have written a tour diary, you can’t imagine he would have allowed it to be published…”–via City Journal

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