Once upon a time we had THE MOST AMAZING book column ever: THE NAMEDROP. And-since this week we’re neck deep in winter guides and NO ONE is reading anything but endless compilations of events, recipes and worse, we’re rerunning this CLASSIC writing piece by the 4ever missed Sarah Steinberg. ENJOY (trust us, you will). – ED.
My first thought was to compile a list of books to cover the field: a vegan cookbook, the VICE Do’s and Dont’s Guide, a DIY guide to bike repair, maybe a Bret Easton Ellis novel like Less Than Zero or something that NPR’s put out. But the only thing I could find from NPR was called This I Believe and besides not having read it, it sounded way too earnest. So I did a little research.
I found The Hipster Handbook by Robert Lanham (he’s from Williamsburg!) and what I discovered is that A) the word “cool” is out (as is the word “out”) and has been replaced by “deck” and B) I’m not a hipster, even though I could be mistaken for one (skinny jeans) in the wrong part of town (the suburbs). My politics don’t jive. I don’t eat meat, so I only semi-score there (since I eat fish and eggs and cheese and other things to keep me alive) and I do have an arts degree (total score) but I don’t cut my own hair (bad!) or have my parents pay my rent (bad! bad!) and I don’t own any vintage sweatshirts with cats on them or, at the very least, a keffiyah (bad! bad! bad!)
So instead I’ll have to talk about a particular subgenre of the hipster, the lit-hipster.
No one Belongs Here More Than You
Best short story title ever, no? Have you seen the website for this book? Miranda July makes me hate myself. How come she can do everything, and I can’t get it together to mail a letter most days? How come when she was 27 she was directing, writing, and starring in her own movie and I was still figuring out how to get the film out of a digital camera? Is it because she’s better than me? Is it because her literary mentor is Rick Moody? Yes! Both things are true! But that’s neither here not there. No one Belongs Here More Than You (which comes in two dashing colors so that you, the reader, has options) is one of the better books of contemporary short fiction I’ve read this year. Of course, I happen to be fond of themes like alienation, loneliness, strange sexual conduct, and delusion: preferably all four together.
I’ve heard a few July detractors say that the eccentricities of her style override the substance, and I can see what they mean. Sometimes substance takes a back seat to her quirkiness: I think “The Swim Team”, (about someone who teaches swimming lessons in her living room) is a good example of that. It written almost like a letter and it is quirky – a much nicer word than whimsical. Still, even at her most whimsical, this shit is sort of magic. Other critics have cited the fact that a lot of the narrators in this book have a similar, if not identical, voice. Ok, that’s true too. But it’s a strange, hyper-intelligent, funny kind of voice. And anyway, Rick Moody likes it.
Lookit at the website.
Pushcart prize winner, Guggenhiem Fellowship receiver, author of The Ice Storm, musician, composer, writer of liner notes for Sufjan Stevens, and the only author I can think of who’s regularly mentioned in Pitchfork. Qualifies, right? Plus, in his Amazon.com blog thing, all he does is shill his band (The Wingdale Community Singers) which is very hipster: hyping your band, wherever you can. And he lives in Brooklyn.
Demonology is my favorite of his books and his only book of short stories (yes, there are the novellas, and books that include novellas and stories, but novellas don’t count). Personally, I like the one about the guy who’s forced to wear a chicken suit and writes to his deceased sister, or the story that’s written as the liner notes to a box-set of mixtapes put together by some random, bitter dude.
If you happen to be a fan of Moody’s you’ll probably be interested in this witheringly scornful review of Moody’s memoirs, originally published in The New Republic Online. It begins with the line “Rick Moody is the worst writer of his generation”
About A Boy
My bad. He’s not really a hipster author, is he? But I always thought he was because A) he’s pals with Dave Eggers and B) I read High Fidelity and it certainly seemed like a hipster novel. I mean, an underachieving record shop owner who who can’t access his emotions half the time and fucks a local indie rockstar? Am I right? So in preparation for this article I read About a Boy.
Um…If High Fidelity is Weezer then About a Boy would have to be Jack Johnson: not totally terrible, not entirely unreadable, but a little sweet for my taste, a tad cheesy, and hardly life changing. We’re talking about a novel in which a selfish 30-something learns how to love truly and unselfishly, and does so with the help of a nice, young lad. Anyway, I’m going to go ahead and say it: I think Hornby’s books are the male equivalent to chicklit. I have a feeling I’m about to catch some shit.
McSweeney’s, The Believer, The Universe, etc.
A friend of mine suggested I write a column about literary hacks, and he wanted Eggers up at the top of that list. Everyone’s got an opinion, huh? Personally, I liked A Heatbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. And kudos to Eggers for becoming one of the hippest lit-hipsters in the Bay area. And kudos to Eggers for making friends with Beck, even if Beck can’t actually make eye contact with anyone which leads me to believe that it would actually be hard to make friends with him but what do I know? If I could make nice with ol’ Dave, I would. That said, I think McSweeney’s is pretty pretentious. Who actually reads it cover to cover? Or do people buy it because it looks good on their bookshelf or casually displayed on their coffee table or because it’s incredibly expensive and the literary equivalent of walking around with a Rolex or a a diamond on your tooth? Beats me.
Hand Job: A Catalogue of Type
Not literature, but I had to throw this one in here because I just got it for Xmas and I’m in love with every single hand-drawn gorgeous page. Plus, as far as I know (and correct me if I’m wrong) liking typography is kind of a hipster thing. This is one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever owned, chock-a-block with over 250 pages of letter-art. Fifty-five typographers. Band posters, CD cover art, sketchbook pages: the kind of stuff Urban Outfitters only wishes it knew about (actually Perry himself has done some design work for UO but nevermind). It makes me weak at the knees, and I highly, highly recommend it for anyone who thinks a perfectly designed letter “R” is sexy.
NEXT UP: NAMEDROPPING CHILDRENS BOOKS? HOW SNOB!