The prolific Queenan, who publishes more than 100 reviews and articles a year and usually adds a book to store shelves annually, also manages to read three books a week and consume more culture -- pop and high -- than Dennis Miller could reference with footnotes and a research assistant. Most of it, Queenan gleefully contends, goes in the toilet, not the time capsule.
"A large part of what I do is take an insane position and then marshall cunning arguments," Queenan says from his office in New York City suburb Tarrytown. "If I say that James Taylor is Satan, I use every argument possible to advance that position." His observations are not merely trenchant but also cannily irrefutable, such as his reminder on Slate.com several years ago that the French are our superiors because they "never, ever name their children Courtney."
"My Big Fat Greek Wedding making all that money, that's the jump-the-shark moment for American society," he tells the Pitch. "It looked like something that had been lying around since 1961, but critics basically got out of its way. Because there's so much stuff out there, there's a tendency to praise something that's not very good because it's not appalling.
"Public relations and fascism were the two worst things developed in the twentieth century," Queenan continues. "What you're doing as a writer is constantly fighting against that, people who say black is white and up is down."
After fascism and public relations, the runners-up come mostly from pro sports -- fans of which might argue that the designated hitter, in fact, trumps Mussolini. Sports fandom is the subject of Queenan's latest book, True Believers, which ignores the WASP enthusiasms he usually targets to pierce instead any of his remaining sentimentality or optimism for the Philadelphia teams he grew up with.
"I think every single day about games that were played forty years ago," Queenan says. "Other than sports, we tend not to talk about the things that are important to us. I can't think of anything else people are that vulnerable about. If you go into the houses of most of my friends, most of the records are from before 1970. As soon as people get jobs, they stop buying records, they stop buying books, they stop going to movies. The passion for things goes away, and it goes away forever. But passion for sports is something people manage to hang on to.
"If someone said to me tomorrow, 'I'll give you $10 million or the Eagles can win the Super Bowl,' there'd be no question what I'd say," Queenan continues. The money? "The Super Bowl," he says.