William Gaddis on Hipsters: “An Ill-dressed, Underfed, Overdrunken Group of Squatters with Minds So Highly Developed That They Were Excused from Good Manners”

Books, Literature, Writers

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Love this passage from William Gaddis’s The Recognitions. Mocking “hipsterism” has been around forever (or at least 50 years):

And by now they were at the door of the Viareggio, a small Italian bar of nepotistic honesty before it was discovered by exotics. Neighborhood folk still came, in small vanquished numbers and mostly in the afternoon, before the two small dining rooms and the bar were taken over by the educated classes, an ill-dressed, underfed, overdrunken group of squatters with minds so highly developed that they were excused from good manners, tastes so refined in one direction that they were excused for having none in any other, emotions so cultivated that the only aberration was normality, all afloat here on sodden pools of depravity calculated only to manifest the pricelessness of what they were throwing away, the three sexes in two colors, a group of people all mentally and physically the wrong size.

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7 thoughts on “William Gaddis on Hipsters: “An Ill-dressed, Underfed, Overdrunken Group of Squatters with Minds So Highly Developed That They Were Excused from Good Manners”

    1. I’m nearing the end of JR; in a scene between Rhoda and Bast in the apartment, Bast says something like, “Why do I have to be interesting? Why does everyone want everybody to be interesting. I want my work to be interesting” (not a direct quote) — reminds me of Otto the uber-poseur, doing anything to be “interesting.”

  1. I remember that bit. I remember reading it in bed and nudging my bed-mate, “Hey let me read this to you… …Isn’t it great that he nailed it then, and the exact same people are doing the exact same things now?”
    “Mm. Yeah, that’s great.”

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