Friday, February 21, 2014
A Guide For Hipsters: The 15 Coolest Novels
So you're a hipster and you live in Brooklyn, Camden Town, St Kilda or downtown LA. You've got your Oxfam cords, your Atari T shirt and your 1970's replica Adidas trainers (I've actually got these and they're great!) You're in the coffee place that no one knows about behind the stolen car chop-shop. It doesn't have Wi-Fi or comfortable furniture but it does have really good coffee. So you're there drinking the Bali Mother Temple Blend, sneaking admiring glances at your trainers, and checking out the other hipsters in the place. Some have Edwardian sideburns, some have full beards and as for the blokes...Sorry, old joke, couldn't resist. No, the girls are really cute and you're sitting there, worried that you're going to spoil the illusion of cool by bringing the wrong retro paperback out of your battered bike messenger bag. What novel is it ok to read that won't set the hipster alarm bells ringing? In the 1980s it was easier - Sartre, Camus, Henry Miller, Eudora Welty, Philip K Dick, a battered Penguin Classic. . .
But that shit don't work no more. It reeks of a set-book in uni or sixth form college and you're far too cool to be doing homework in here. So what does work? Here are some book suggestions and what to say to the curious guy/gal who - hopefully - asks you about your reading material:
1. Infinite Jest - David Foster Wallace. "It's so much funnier on the third reading."
2. Crash - JG Ballard. "It's about this pervy guy called Ballard who meets this guy called Vaughn who wants to kill himself in an erotic car crash with Elizabeth Taylor's limousine. . .What? They made a movie out of it? Oh, I don't watch movies from the last 40 years."
3. Platform - Michel Houellebecq. "It's a bit like Crash, actually, but without the cars, Ballard, or Elizabeth Taylor."
4. Red or Dead - David Peace. "It's like Fever Pitch, but, you know, good."
5. The Art of Fielding - Chad Harbach. "Do you know who Derek Jeter is? Well imagine if he was interesting. . ."
6. The Rehearsal - Eleanor Catton. "Oh yeah, I read the one that won the Booker Prize ages ago. This is her earlier better, longer, less crowd-pleasing one."
7. The Fortress of Solitude - Jonathan Lethem. "Its about this kid who lives Brooklyn in the 70's and this homeless dude gives him this ring that lets him fly. No, wait, come back, it's the greatest American novel of the last 20 years. . ."
8. Childhood's End - Arthur C. Clarke. “What's it about? Uhm, well, aliens come to watch all the children on the Earth doing a conga dance that gets out of hand as they merge into a giant supercreature and sublime off into another dimension. He wrote it at the Chelsea Hotel if that helps explain things."
9. La Casa de los Espíritus - Isabel Allende. "Oh this? No, not really my cup of tea. I'm only reading it to improve my Spanish in preparation for my Ayahuasca rebirthing ceremony."
10. Longbourn - Jo Baker. "It's Pride and Prejudice from the perspective of the servants. Sounds like a gimmick, but, you know, it's actually brilliant. No, I wasn't crying. I've got something in my eye."
11. Human Race Get Off Your Knees - David Icke. "Alice Walker's favourite book, apparently. . .Uhm, I think its fiction."
12. A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth. “She hasn’t met all three of her suitors yet but I’m only on page 973.”
13. The Satanic Verses. "And while we're on the topic of the sub continent, did you know that this is banned in India? Thats a thing these days."
14. The History of Madness - Michel Foucault. "Ok, yeah, not really an novel, but here's an interesting fact about Foucault: he used to go to public lavatories in Paris, lie down in the urinal and have strangers piss on him. . .Why are you looking at me like that?"
15. The Cold Cold Ground: Adrian McKinty. "The best crime writer you've never heard of. . .Wait, you've heard of him? Jesus, that dude is so over."