Tuesday, July 20, 2010


The title of this blog, "Hipsters Are Boring," was originally intended as a slam against Chuck Klosterman, whose books made me totally crazy. Not even crazy in a grab-strangers-by-their-lapels way - I am that nuts about David Foster Wallace, Brian Lee O'Malley and Coke Zero, for all of which/whom I would organize parades - but not about Klosterman. Him, I would cheerfully fight. I've long felt that women have "people we don't like," while men get to have enemies (I think it's a holdover from that whole nice-woman bullshit from before my time), but this woman has some enemies.

I love a good loathing. Not mano-a-mano type stuff: that gets too weird. I have friends...former friends...people who exist in a gray zone between awkwardness and anger....but they're not really enemies, they're just people who make me sad. No, enemies are people who have wronged you on an epic, inarguable scale. People like, say, Margaret Atwood.

Atwood is my enemy because she gets all these accolades and awards, and as far as I can tell, is terrible. I don't mind terrible. I'm often terrible myself. But Atwood offends me because her prose is so often stolid and her dialogue reads like it was run through Babelfish, and yet she still gets nominated for everything under the sun. Kudos! Why? She still gets to look all coy, and offer her opinion on stuff, and people gobble it up like she's some sort of Canadian feminist oracle. Look. I know she looks like a witch (a look I embrace), and yeah, The Handmaid's Tale was sort of entertaining in a post-apocalyptic vein, but Oryx and Crake? Seriously? No. That book was weak sauce. And it gets taught, in real universities, with professors and shit. Like, it got treated like a real piece of action. And it's not.

Atwood and Klosterman are enemies of mine in a particular genre, "the writer who seriously for real doesn't deserve it," which, as a semi-sort-of-aw-shucks sort of writer, totally burns my brisket. There are dozens, maybe hundreds, of writers who inspire me. They produce work that isn't perfect (nothing ever is, right?) but manages to transcend imperfection to become some other kind of perfect. Their books are smart and sassy, lovely and lonely, gorgeous and gross, and they form my connective tissue. Atwood? Klosterman? Please. Their words fail to connect with me, and because they've been lauded as "must-reads" and we've been told that anyone who hasn't read them should just throw themselves on their swords right now, so much shame should we feel, I'm pissed off. I feel like that jerkwad who pointed out the emperor has no clothes.

What makes it worse is that maybe everyone else is looking at a bespoke suit, and I'm gazing at Klosterman's (probably) hairy ass. What I mean is, maybe I don't get it. And I'm the only one.

That's the thing about enemies. Each of my enemies has been carefully culled from a large pool of contenders, selected for their unique ability to totally enrage me. I might be alone in that rage. Mark G. Yudof, the president of the University of California school system, made my list because of a particularly douchey interview in the New York Times Magazine, but people clearly think he's worth talking to, or else the interview wouldn't have run in the first place. Michael Cera used to be on my enemies list, but he's been begrudgingly downgraded because of his involvement in the (fingers-crossed) awesome Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. His nebbishy one-note characters irritated me greatly; maybe in this flick he'll have grown some stones and figured out how to rock.

Enemies aren't easy to dismiss; there's a respect layered in with the irritation. While Atwood makes me roar with rage, I understand her appeal. Same with Chuck Klosterman. Both have a charismatic style and a look-at-me attitude that, as a writer, I wish I could tap into. Both writers, and Yudof, and Cera, have charm. They can work a room. They believe wholeheartedly that what they do is fucking amazeballs. Do I have that kinds of unshakable belief in my writing? No. I'm jealous of that, and professional jealousy makes me feel mentally ill and like I need to go eat my body weight in Dreamsicles. Hence the enemies list.

It's not like I'm going to show up on Atwood's doorstep with a homicidal glint in my eye. For one thing, after all those Dreamsicles, I'm not going anywhere fast. But also because, while I would love nothing more than to have all her books be revealed as the cause of obesity, and for scientists to discover that reading Klosterman while pregnant leads to stupid babies, I also need them. They make me push myself, just a little. They give me something to aspire to. If I ever get there, I'm sure some horrible quarter-life crisis blogger will be calling me terrible and uninspired, with bad writing and deep personal flaws. And then I'll just look over at my mantle full of "undeserved" awards and smile like the Cheshire cat. Much like Margaret Atwood does now.

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