Alex Pappademas and Joan LeMay

Jan 7, 2024

Quantum Criminals

Ramblers, Wild Gamblers, and Other Sole Survivors from the Songs of Steely Dan

University of Texas Press 2023

A literary and visual exploration of the songs of Steely Dan.

Steely Dan's songs are exercises in fictional world-building. No one else in the classic-rock canon has conjured a more vivid cast of rogues and heroes, creeps and schmucks, lovers and dreamers and cold-blooded operators--or imbued their characters with so much humanity. Pulling from history, lived experience, pulp fiction, the lore of the counterculture, and their own darkly comic imaginations, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker summoned protagonists who seemed like fully formed people with complicated pasts, scars they don't talk about, delusions and desires and memories they can't shake. From Rikki to Dr. Wu, Hoops McCann to Kid Charlemagne, Franny from NYU to the Woolly Man without a Face, every name is a locked-room mystery, beguiling listeners and earning the band an exceptionally passionate and ever-growing cult fandom.

Quantum Criminals: Ramblers, Wild Gamblers, and Other Sole Survivors from the Songs of Steely Dan (U Texas Press, 2023) presents the world of Steely Dan as it has never been seen, much less heard. Artist Joan LeMay has crafted lively, color-saturated images of her favorite characters from the Daniverse to accompany writer Alex Pappademas's explorations of the famous and obscure songs that inspired each painting, in short essays full of cultural context, wild speculation, inspired dot-connecting, and the occasional conspiracy theory. All of it is refracted through the perspectives of the characters themselves, making for a musical companion unlike any other. Funny, discerning, and visually stunning, Quantum Criminals is a singular celebration of Steely Dan's musical cosmos.

Alex Pappademas is the author of Keanu Reeves: Most Triumphant--The Movies & Meaning of an Irrepressible Icon and the writer and host of the acclaimed podcast The Big Hit Show. His work has also appeared in GQ, the New York Times, and Grantland. Alex on Twitter.

Joan LeMay is an artist based in London and New York City (although the paintings for this book were created in Portland). Her work appears in multiple publications and books and has been shown in museums, galleries, and public spaces internationally. Joan on Twitter.

Bradley Morgan is a media arts professional in Chicago and author of U2's The Joshua Tree: Planting Roots in Mythic America. He manages partnerships on behalf of CHIRP Radio 107.1 FM, serves as a co-chair of the associate board at the Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and volunteers in the music archive at the Old Town School of Folk Music. Bradley Morgan on Twitter.

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Bradley Morgan

Bradley Morgan is a media arts professional in Chicago and author of U2's The Joshua Tree: Planting Roots in Mythic America. He manages partnerships on behalf of CHIRP Radio 107.1 FM, serves as a co-chair of the associate board at the Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and volunteers in the music archive at the Old Town School of Folk Music. Bradley Morgan on Twitter.

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