I doubt that
I'll own a copy of this book unless someone gives it to me,
but this interview with Robert Lanham is kind of fun. I've
copied and pasted it from PW (Publishers Weekly) Daily for
Booksellers. No, I don't live in Williamsburg, by the way. To
read it, click
What Does It Mean to
Be Deck? Fin? A Hipster Explains
documents a fascinating new subculture in his upcoming guide
to being "deck" (once known as "cool"): The Hipster Handbook
Though some critics have compared the
book to Lisa Birnbach's
out-of-print '80s classic The
Official Preppy Handbook (Workman,
hilarious romp through enigmatic Hipster subculture appeals to
a completely different audience. Unlike preppies, who obsess
over getting into the right Ivy-league university and use the
word "summer" as a verb, hipsters "frequently use the term
'post-modern'... and often graduate from liberal arts colleges
"where the football team hasn't won a game since the Reagan
According to Lanham, if you "have
kissed someone of the same gender and often bring this up in
casual conversation...[or, if you] bought your dishes and a
checkered tablecloth at a thrift shop to be kitschy and often
throw vegetarian dinner parties," you are probably a Hipster.
If, on the other hand, you "teach Sunday school," "read novels
with raised lettering on their covers," "[or] are a big fan of
the suburbs and vinyl siding," you are probably not a Hipster.
In this case, you might be able to learn a lot from the
Hipster Handbook, which covers every aspect of Hipster culture
from the "deckest" music and hairdos to magazines and books.
In fact, Lanham's handbook is complete with a glossary
Hipster terms, perfect for the social tourist
infiltrating Hipster culture. For instance,
as the author tells us, the Hipster word for such a tourist is
"bleeker," as in "Every time I'm in the city, some bleeker
asks me for directions." Also, Lanham tells us, terms like
"cool" and "lame," once commonly recognized slang expressions
for "good" and "bad," are being replaced by the
cognates "deck" and "fin," giving examples of how
these terms are used in typical Hipster speech. For instance,
a Hipster might say, "Have you seen Micah's new bennie (hat).
It looks deck as ef" or "My date with Larry was so fin. He
took me to Applebee's and ordered cheese fries as an
PW Daily recently spoke with the author
about the book.
PWD: Are you a Hipster?
Since I studied and wrote a book about Hipsters, people tend
to assume that I must be a Hipster myself. Jane Goodall made a
career studying wildlife but nobody mistakes her for a
chimpanzee. But of course a true Hipster would never admit to
being a Hipster.
PWD: Why is 'the Hipster' important
enough to write a book about?
RL: I recently completed
a book about white baby boomers who dress like Native
Americans and wanted to do another anthropological study.
Hipsters are everywhere these days, so a comprehensive study
of their culture seemed long overdue. My goal was to define a
subculture that refuses to identify itself. I think the
question we should really be asking is why was a book entitled
The Leadership Genius of George W. Bush published.
How are Hipsters different from (or similar to) other
sub-groups of society?
RL: Like all other sub-groups of
society, Hipsters have habits, rules and similarities that set
them apart from others. Nevertheless, Hipsters strive to be
individuals and are in denial about the set of rules to which
they conform. All sub-groups take their cue from cultural
and/or spiritual leaders. Christians look to Jesus for
guidance. Muslims look to Allah. Hipsters have Noam Chomsky
and Sarah Vowell.
RL: What gave you the idea for the
PWD: I live in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the
Hipster capital of the world, so I knew my material would be
endless. Even the water here tastes ironic.
did you conduct your research for the book?
RL: I put
on a mesh baseball cap and grew a handlebar mustache so I
could sit in Hipster coffee shops incognito while I documented
what I heard and saw. I also interviewed hip friends and
neighbors and took careful notes on their observations and
opinions about Hipster culture.
PWD: How much of the
book is exaggeration?
RL: None of the book is
exaggerated. Absolutely every word should be taken at face
value. I did understate the lameness of rap metal,
PWD: In the book, you give several scholarly
grades for their popularity with
Hipsters, including Evergreen State and Oberlin College, which
both get A's. I am actually a recent alumnus of Oberlin and
must say that no one there ever said to me, "I'll polish in my
deck flogger" when they really meant, "Hey, I'm going to look
great in this jacket." Did you ever make up any of the
language you use in the book?
RL: Terms like "deck"
(cool) and "frado" (an ugly guy who thinks he's good-looking)
are cutting-edge and very new. Take a trip back to Oberlin,
and you'll see they are spreading among Hipsters like
PWD: What sort of audience is the book
intended for? And how old do you imagine them to
RL: I wrote this book for suburban housewives. They
are my core
demographic. But seriously, I think the book
will appeal to everyone. You don't have to be a mobster to
enjoy a book about the mob.
PWD: Do you think a lot of
non-Hipsters will buy it?
RL: I hope so. Otherwise, I'm
going to need to pick up some extra hours at Foot Locker to
pay the bills.
PWD: Do you have any forecasts for what
tomorrow's Hipsters might be like?
Hipsters will run into semantic problems when it comes to
classifying trends that continue coming back into fashion. For
instance, today's new punk bands often classify themselves as
being post post punk. In the future, bands will say they are
punk3. Also, jodhpurs will become fashionable.
it your intention that the book will set the
followed by future Hipsters?
already have habits, preferences, and tastes that are followed
universally. For instance, all Hipsters think drinking PBR out
of a can is "deck." My intention was to document their unique
PWD: Doubtless, there are people out there who
will buy the book and use it as a self-help guide to turn
themselves into Hipsters. In light of this, do you think the
book is more documenting a cultural phenomenon or creating
RL: The cultural phenomenon has already arrived.
The Hipster Handbook just helps to define the nuances of the
movement. The school board in New Haven, Conn., just approved
using The Hipster Handbook as a supplementary textbook, so
apparently people are seeing the value of this book as a
teaching tool as well.
PWD: How does it make you feel
to know that, as you grow older, people will hold you to a
higher standard of Hipster-ness because you wrote this
RL: Great! Hopefully, it will help me polish with
the tassels (Hipster speak for impress the ladies) well into
my golden years.--Channing Joseph
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