Monday, November 19, 2012


The hipster haunts every city street and university town. Manifesting a nostalgia for times he never lived himself, this contemporary urban harlequin appropriates outmoded fashions (the mustache, the tiny shorts), mechanisms (fixed-gear bicycles, portable record players) and hobbies (home brewing, playing trombone). He harvests awkwardness and self-consciousness. Before he makes any choice, he has proceeded through several stages of self-scrutiny. The hipster is a scholar of social forms, a student of cool. He studies relentlessly, foraging for what has yet to be found by the mainstream. He is a walking citation; his clothes refer to much more than themselves. He tries to negotiate the age-old problem of individuality, not with concepts, but with material things.

That from this morning's New York Times online.   I had to chuckle.  She writes as if any of us lives our lives authentically.  The author is a Professor of French Literature at Princeton who grew up in the nineties and whose education, I'd guess, was steeped in a postmodern stew.  I'd hate to quarrel with her.  Still. . . .  She makes a good point, I think, about people who live without irony--children, fundamentalists, people whose lives are surrounded by strife.  I don't know if all of that is true, but I get it.  Sort of.

But one of the finest things about watching a child grow up is that moment when, for the very first time, he or she is ironic.  Snap!  Some light has turned on.  Suddenly there is a higher form of thinking.

I'm not talking about sarcasm which is over the top and brutal, but about the subtle charm of ironical thinking.  It assumes an insider audience who gets the joke.  It is the difference between The New Yorker and People magazine.  The straw man the author creates, I think, is not so subtle and most, surely, do not see the irony at all.

The images I post on this site are, I want to believe, ironic.  They do all the things that the author claims irony can do, I hope, especially insulate me from criticism.  That is, with an insider audience (assuming the images are not sarcastic and obvious to the larger audience).  I even bathe them in textures of the past, though I don't think there is any nostalgia involved.

Thinking about Postmodernism was difficult if you were Modern, so most didn't or didn't do it well.  It was easier to use the Cliff Notes version.  I did.  "Foucault for Begginers," "Derrida for Beginners."  And, of course, Terry Eagleton's explanations of it all.  And then, of course, one moves on.  Being born of the time, however, when Modernists were bringing Postmodernism to the academy, one got a different sense of things.  In some, perhaps, the sense was incomplete.

Anyway, we are all posers.  Even monks living in caves atop mountains.  None of us live sui generis.  We're all copying models.

So hey--Hipsters are funny.  So are rappers.  So am I.  So is the author of the article.  Don't let it get under your skin, though.  It will pass.

So. . . is this a hipster song?


AnitaNH said...

I don't know if it's hipster or not but I'm enjoying it...the no sound situation suddenly fixed itself. If only all other problems would follow suit!

cafe selavy said...

A, All problems are solved in the end. You just have to wait long enough. At least we hope it is long. But remember, the highway is just outside your doorway. It goes so many places. It calls, "anywhere but here."