For the sake of transparency, I want to admit: I never warmed to Steely Dan. As widely as my tastes range, their music lacked a certain fire. It felt cold and, well, steely. Fortunately, musical preferences have no bearing on cofounder Donald Fagen’s absorbing book.
Across ten stand-alone pieces and a seventy-three page tour diary, Eminent Hipsters attempts to map the ways music, books and certain cultural figures sculpted Mr. Fagen’s sensibility. With the exception of a Q&A that lays on the text with the grace of what geologists call a ‘glacial erratic,’ essays and sketches compose the remaining chapters. The best aim to do what pioneering cultural critic Ellen Willis advocated: explore the connections between culture and self. In Mr. Fagen’s case, those connections prove especially relevant because of the way his band’s compositions colored the larger culture.