August 2, 2011: Hipster Lit

PAGES READ since July 25: 320
CURRENTLY READING: Life by Keith Richards and Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
-3,999 PAGES

File this one under “more essential reading that I’ve never heard of”. Have I been living under a rock? Or more accurately, have I been living in an obscure and decidedly uncool CanLit bubble?

A recent post from The New Yorker‘s great book blog, The Book Bench, discussed the subject of Hipster Lit. The blog’s author had come across a curated section in the Sag Harbor branch of the Hamptons’ hippest bookstore chain, Bookhampton, labelled “Hipster Lit”, and both parties (blog author and bookstore) seem to use the term without any apparent ironic intention. Among the titles on the two dedicated shelves were 2666by Roberto Bolaño (of course!), King Rat by China Mieville (who?) and Scorch Atlas by Blake Butler (I’ve read Cloud Atlas – does that count?). Looking at the whole list, I’ve heard of only a few of them and have read exactly none.

The blog post goes on to analyze the selections in great detail, listing several authors who are notable omissions, pointing out that all of the authors are male and white and that much will be made of this in future scholarly study of this important cultural movement. Again, written without tongue in cheek. There are links to other lists of essential Hipster Lit. Again, I’m batting .000. Even on Amazon’s list, bound to be the most commercial and least hip, I’ve only read two titles and both were assigned reading in high school. (Ironically, they are The Catcher in the Rye and The Stranger – two titles that also appeared on the Bad Classics list. Alert! Hipsters and the Huffington Post at odds with each other!)

I’m really not sure what to make of all this newfound literary ignorance of mine. I’m pretty happy with what I’m reading these days and I couldn’t finish the one Bolaño novel that I tried out. I think I’ll just stick with what’s working… as unhip as that may be.

P.S.  The staff at Bookhampton have a name for the hipsters who come in and shop there: Hampsters. I love it.

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