By Robert Lanham
(Anchor Books, $9.95)
Written and conceptualized by Free Williamsburg editor Robert Lanham, The Hipster Handbook categorizes hipsters into genres ("bipster" = blue-collar hipster, "UTF" = unemployed trust-funder), instructs on what bands to listen to, and gives advice on what hip slang to use ("deck" = hot, "fin"= not). It contains diagrams of hipsters wearing "electro-punk" t-shirts and asks, "Is this look deck or fin? (Answer: This look is deck.)" I can't tell if it's meant to be ironic, or self-mocking, or just another entry in the never-ending queue of people who are making money off youth culture. Either way, making fun of hipsters is very fish-in-a-barrel, even when it's hipsters who are making fun of themselves.
Aside from being obvious and not funny enough to have a clear satirical intention (other than the illustrations, which are quite entertaining), the concept of The Hipster Handbook is fundamentally flawed. Because it is an actual book, and not a website or fanzine, it inherently implies that the content has some level of longevity. But because it relies on what is hip RIGHT NOW, and what is hip RIGHT NOW will not be hip in six months or even one month, The Hipster Handbook has a shelf life of about four months, tops.
Those who don't live their lives on the bleeding edge of post-irony aren't likely to know what the authors are talking about, and therefore aren't likely to care what the authors are talking about. Since all the book's satirical jokes rely on knowledge of what is hip RIGHT NOW, those who aren't already acquainted with the ins and outs of Naim June Paik, D'arcangelo, and Metro Area will feel alienated and not entertained.
To test this theory, I showed an illustration to my co-worker Justin, who "buys some clothes in the hip vein, but I don't really think about it much." The drawing consisted of a tank top with the words "DFA" scrawled inside a lightning bolt. "Do you know what DFA is?" I asked. "No," responded Justin, "and I don't care, either."
I know what DFA is. They're a production duo who've only released, like, four records on their label--two of them suck--but they're really "deck" right now. And you know what? I don't care, either. The Hipster Handbook is a self-absorbed tome tailor-made for yuppies. And yuppies are totally "fin." JULIANNE SHEPHERD