Monday, October 26, 2009

Must the Hipster be Killed?

"Has the hipster killed cool in New York? Did it die the day Wes Anderson proved too precious for his own good, or was it when Chloë Sevigny fellated Vincent Gallo onscreen? Did it vanish along with Kokie’s, International Bar and Tonic? Or when McSweeney’s moved shop to San Francisco and Bright Eyes signed a lease on the Lower East Side? Was it possible to be a hipster once a band that played Northsix one night was heard the next day on NPR’s Weekend Edition? Did it hurt to have American Apparel marketing soft-porn style to young bankers? Was something lost the day Ecstasy made the cover of the Times Magazine? Or was it the day Bloomberg banned smoking in bars? And how many times an hour could one check e-mail and still have an honest, or even ironic, claim on being cool?"

Here's another take on the Hipster issue.


Blogger Johannes said...

Apparently this article will be recanted in the next issue of N+1.

Nevertheless I think it captures some of what drives people's anger toward the hipster...


4:56 PM  
Blogger Lily Hoang said...

that's funny. i just read christian's article this morning. poor hipsters...

6:19 PM  
Blogger Max said...

A 2 year old article is going to be recanted?

I think all of the economic arguments about/against hipsters are pretty much spot-on, though I'm less interested in the stylistic designations, which is what I think the poetry version of "hipster" lingers on mostly.

7:25 PM  
Blogger Phanero Noemikon said...

What are you guys, like 12?

11:56 PM  
Blogger Johannes said...

OK, dad.

This article is of course meant to be a kind of humerous piece, but let me very briefly explain why I think this is relevant: The hipster is hated for a suspicion of inauthenticity coupled with a sense of style. The style is somehow inauthentic because the person's riches.

How can this be used to talk about poetry?

Max claims that the arguments about poetry are purely stylistic; in making this argument he repeats Christian's hate-hipsters argument: poets are merely stylistic, not "real" - ie economic (nevermind that Max's "economic critique" is not so much an economic critique as a repeat of the hipster argument).

Steve Burt's dismissal of hipster poets was as way to valorize a "real" poet. The hipster representing useless expenditure, waste, inauthenticity etc. What I think we have in both of these arguments is actually a very bourgeois critique of excess.

This is going on too long, I'll write something later to clarify now I have to go.


7:45 AM  
Blogger Johannes said...

Well, that didn't turn out exactly right. Clearly Max has an economic critique. More later.

7:54 AM  
Blogger Phanero Noemikon said...

There's six billion people on the planet.

No ostensible purpose for life in the universe, as evidenced by its lack, relative to SIZE.

And uh, people are made of chemicals not words, which is why, fitting them together, causes a lot of stupid problems.

No ostensible purpose, at all,
except give ourselves one, for a few minutes, before senility
returns us, to

pure blind dumb chemical hipsterism.

A real hispter,


That a manatee, or an amoeba

might be hisspurses

but a hipslur

a bovine pelvis mask helmet thing,



is just what the dumb-side-smart
says about


Man, its all in one EAR AND OUT THE OTHER




like, man,

no ostensible purpose.

[snaps, whistles, taps foot]

8:58 AM  
Blogger Matt Walker said...

i didn't know bloomberg was a hipster

10:31 AM  
Blogger Max said...

Johannes -

What I mean is that I think the namecalling/dismissal you're referring to from the poetry community draws only from the surface of the larger cultural issue of the "hipster." It sounded to me like this dismissal was more along the lines of "this poem reads like an Animal Collective song sounds" or something like that. I'm not sure that this kind of dismissal packs into it the all the heft, or substance, of the larger cultural barrage against the hipster. It feels more like a one-off slur that it does a comprehensive claim, and certainly doesn't pack into it any of the economic concerns about hipsters. I don't get the impression that this slur, as it's played by some in the poetry community, has, for example, anything to do with the poet under attack being rich, bourgeois, or whatever else. So that's what I mean when I say that it seems to be concerned merely with stylistics in the usage that you've described and objected to recently.

As far as the economics of hipsterism, yeah, I do find it troubling that the rabblerousing subculture is so attached, these days, to access to material wealth. It seems that over the decades, NYC remained a cultural hub, even as its real estate/rental prices skyrocketed, essentially pricing entire swathes of the creative community out of access to its opportunities and resources. This is why, for example, Berlin--a relatively affordble city, when compared to NYC--is quickly becoming a major hub for the arts, specifically among expats.

6:31 PM  
Blogger Jordan said...

What happened to NY should not have surprised anyone who noticed what happened over the last 500 years to London, Paris, Venice...

I am still trying to piece together where JG is going with his critique of critics of soft-surrealism and hipsterism.

8:04 AM  
Blogger Johannes said...


It's coming.


It's coming.

8:08 AM  
Blogger Jordan said...

Of course, a vigorous estate tax coupled with a grim urban crime wave would definitely change the dynamic... not to mention the inevitable eventual devaluing of the euro: Trust funds crippled, city-as-playground made difficult, and real estate values destroyed.

Not sure tho why anyone would want the city to be like it was. (NY, that is.)

Not sure why anyone outside of NY cares, for that matter. Does "hipster" exist as the same category in other cities? My experience of DC Phila and Chicago is limited but I don't see the same kinds of social formations there. (I like those cities -- they still seem viable.)

8:38 AM  
Blogger Max said...

Jordan -

It's one thing if this city-wide economic scenario is just sort of a natural transition, purely based on the flux of money. But hipster gentrification is based almost entirely on building a sycophantic relationship with localized artists, which is then eventually severed when the artists are priced out of the neighborhood (or the city altogether). But it's good while it lasts, right?

3:34 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

“As far as the economics of hipsterism, yeah, I do find it troubling that the rabblerousing subculture is so attached, these days, to access to material wealth.”

There is nothing rabblerousing about most of these people. I think the article is spot on. Bourgeois fucks doing Bob Dylan impressions at coffee shops are so played out. We Duluth kids listen to Tupac now.

Just saying.


8:11 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

There is something ironic and half-assed about the hipster's appropriation of those things that they consider to be 'cool.' The whole damned subculture is bourgeoisie.

& I think they are all around, not just in NY. There is an excess of them in MFA programs.


8:37 PM  
Blogger Jordan said...

Hi Max. In my experience, the artist/gentrification link is tangential to any hipsterism.. or rather, hipsters arrive in the second or third stage of gentrification. (That is, hipsters aren't usually artists -- I think Lorentzen would agree.)

8:50 AM  
Blogger Max said...

Jordan -

Exactly, which is why I don't think this particular fixation of Johannes's has much of a connection to the "real world" hipster. Most hipsters aren't artists, but rather enjoy living in the immediate atmospheres spawned by creative people. The problem is that, when they move into the artists' territories, they bring along many of their pre-existing bourgeois needs and desires, such as plush housing, "fancy" clothes, etc, etc, etc. A couple walls are knocked down and suddenly the studio apartment is a bourgie bachelor's pad. The creative bargain-bin outfits worn by the artists are suddenly on "sale" at hipster outlets for hundreds of dollars.

I think Johannes perhaps has an interesting point about the "hipster" idea that exists in his head, but I'm not sure it bears any resemblance to the one that exists in reality.

3:11 PM  
Blogger Johannes said...


I'm going to say this one more time: My discussion - as you may remember - stems from people in the poetry world putting down other poets as "hipsters". What I wanted to consider was what on earth did "hipster" mean in the context of poetry. That's what my comments are about. I don't understand what is so difficult to understand about that.

Clearly I am not a hipster. I live in South Bend, Indiana. Unpossible to be a hipster here.


3:52 PM  
Blogger Max said...

Johannes -

Wait a minute. When did I call you a hipster? I don't remember ever saying directly or implying such a thing.

What I'm saying is that the notion of the hipster which you're referring to in your analysis is not really related, in any significant way, to the one used in the namecalling that sparked your interest in the first place. The critique contained in the namecalling (if you could even call it a critique in the first place ... it just seems like more of an off-the-cuff slur to me) doesn't correlate to the critique called upon in the article.

5:49 PM  
Blogger Johannes said...

No, I just meant, it must all be in my head because I'm so far from Hipness!

But Max, I just don't see how you have argued against my point. You've just insisted that I'm making too much of this slurr.


7:57 PM  
Blogger Max said...

Johannes -

I assume that your point in posting a link to this article is that there's an equivalence between the subjects of the article (i.e. the real world hipsters of Brooklyn, or wherever else) and the "hipster," as invoked by flippant, dismissive poetry critics. My argument isn't merely that you're "making too much of this slur," but rather that you're conflating two distinct identities that really don't have all that much to do with one another.

In other words, the fears/concerns that you believe lie beneath the surface of this slur (which may be very real), when used in a literary context, aren't really addressed by the article you've linked to, or by the more mainline discussion surrounding the hipster of the culture-at-large.

Beyond that, sure, I think you are trying to unpack far more than the slur itself really seems to possess in the first place. It seems far more, to me, like a flippant, unthinking remark than it does a substantive critique. It's like trying to unpack the critique behind calling somebody a "dummy dumb-dumb" or something like that.

9:58 PM  
Blogger Johannes said...

But I've never heard anybody called "dumby-dumb."

However, I have seen a lot of dismissals lately of "hipster" poetry. So that's what I analyzed.

It is not like I'm using some obscure psychoanalytic reading here. What I'm doing is looking at the associations with the word "hipster" - a fake, aestheticist, rich, useless, stylized yet obscoletely fancy figure. And I'm asking why would people evoke this figure in order to diss poetry? And why does this critique echo in so many other critiques (excessive, fake, trashy, "hot topic" etc).


9:52 AM  

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