introducing readers to writers since 1995

August 27, 2004

Interview Roundup: Hipster Sluts and Right-Wing Nuts

by Ron Hogan

Gawker continues its excellent 5x5 interview series by chatting with Jardin Libaire--you may recall ages ago when I went to see her read at KGB from her debut novel, Here Kitty Kitty, the protagonist of which apparently has a kindred spirit in The Ginger Man: "I was so inspired that the main character was an asshole. But a wicked, lustful, brilliantly funny asshole. Chick lit is so full of politeness and the desire to please; it was fulfilling and exciting to be rude in the genre, to make a controversial figure that could be disliked."

Robert Birnbaum lingers with Kent Haruf and they wind up discussing his treatment by the Times, specifically the "smart-ass" review that accused him of writing the same book twice, a take he dubs "a quintessential hip cynical eastern view of things." His novels, then, are celebrated in the interview as a bracing antidote to East Coast hipster fiction, an assessment with which the author tentatively agrees:

There is nothing in these books that I am trying to write that is cynical or satiric or ironic. I am not interested in that. There is a place for that. But in my view that is a kind of easy out. You are not really trying to talk about the human condition, which is what I am after. I am trying to talk about, to write about the kind of universal problems that people have everywhere. And I am not interested in being hip or paying any attention to technology or any of that stuff. None of these characters ever talk about cell phones or computers or any of that.

I'm pretty sure you can use satire and irony (and maybe even cynicism) to talk about the human condition and universal problems, actually, and you can even do it with stories set in New York. And I'm definitely sure that East Coast hipster fiction isn't obsessed with technology, though East Coast hipster science fiction might be. Not that there's anything wrong with homespun sincerity: authors like Jan Karon and Phillip Gulley do just fine by it and for all I know Haruf might, too. (Let's see, do I still have that galley of Eventide floating around...?)

BoingBoing recalls a 2003 interview with George Lakoff, one of the popularizers of the language-as-metaphor approach, in which he applied his theories to the contemporary political scene, examining the ability of conservatives to frame issues in ways that serve their agendas. Well, there he goes again:

Conservatives have branded liberals, and the liberals let them get away with it: the "liberal elite," the "latte liberals," the "limousine liberals." The funny thing is that conservatives are the elite. The whole idea of conservative doctrine is that some people are better than others, that some people deserve more.
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