The Literary Hipster’s Handbook, 2006 Q4 Edition

“bad beef”: A literary prize ostensibly designed to assist struggling writers that goes instead to writers who don’t need the cash or the praise. Recent examples of bad beef include Haruki Murakami winning the O’Connor Short Story Award and John Updike winning the Rea Award. The phrase “bad beef” has begun to shift to writers who have secured a considerable windfall and who feel the need to remind more impoverished writers of their affluence. (Ex. He got him the Park Slope digs, the nubile wife, and he can write any novel he wants. And he don’t talk of nothing else. He keep up this bad beef and I’ll kick his bitchy little vegetarian ass.)

“Discomfort Zone”: An area in a bar or cafe populated by whiny middle-aged dilletantes to be avoided at all costs. Discomfort Zones are sometimes cordoned off with a red velvet rope, suggesting to the dilletante that he is a VIP. However, the real intent of the rope is to protect a happening establishment from “novelists” too stiff, gushing, and self-absorbed to join the more friendly and fun-loving clientele. (Or.: Jonathan Franzen.)

“Doubting Thomas”: A literary hipster who wishes to cast doubt on a forthcoming autumn title, particularly those with a sizable page count and those written by a white male in good standing. The term was inspired shortly after news broke on Thomas Pynchon’s forthcoming novel, Against the Day, and several literary hipsters began to cast serious doubts amidst the hype, demanding that the hype be shifted to experimental novels that only a handful of people will actually read. Other titles that Doubting Thomases have publicly questioned: Norman Mailer’s The Castle in the Forest, Richard Powers’ The Echo Maker, and Richard Ford’s The Lay of the Land.

“This is/This is not…”: A rather curious conversational form has emerged among literary hipsters that is somewhere between a shit-flinging contest and a Socratic debate. Inspired by the two chicklit anthologies edited by Elizabeth Merrick and Lauren Baratz-Logsted, literary hipsters have begun to contradict each other, particularly in discussions involving misunderstood genres. The following conversation, for example, was overheard at a Greenwich Village pub:

HIPSTER 1: This is a novel.
HIPSTER 2: This is not a novel. It is a piece of shit.
HIPSTER 1: David Markson? This is wrong, cat. And I’ll kick your ass if you sully my man Markson’s name any further.
HIPSTER 2: This is not wrong. You haven’t read Hemingway, have you?
HIPSTER 1: This is a lie. (pause, hits HIPSTER 2 over the head with a beer bottle) How does that feel?
HIPSTER 2: This is not a lie. I am bleeding. Please take me to a hospital.
HIPSTER 1: This is your problem.
HIPSTER 2: This is not my problem. You hit me with the beer bottle. I expect you to pay my doctor’s bill.
HIPSTER 1: This is unreasonable. You’re the one contradicting me.
HIPSTER 2: This is not unreasonable. Will somebody call 911?

And so on.

As can be observed, this recent conversational trend can often end in horrible violence, leaving literary hipsters to pursue this vernacular as a last resort. Unfortunately, recent friction between the print media and the online media has resulted in more unnecessary head bashing and at least one stabbing, when two literary hipsters attempted to recreate the Lev Grossman/Edward Champion contretemps. (Fortunately, the stabbing hipster followed up by sending a fruit basket.)

It is advised by this lexicographer to avoid any conversations that play out along these lines.

“to Max out”: To use one’s questionable blogging abilities to secure a lucrative book deal, only to write a book so bad that not even a vaguely erudite leper will touch it. This euphemism came from the short-lived turn of phrase “to Cox out.” But since literary hipsters have no desire to remember or reference Ana Marie Cox’s dreadful novel, Dog Days in any way, and since, more importantly, Tucker Max is a douchebag, the term was changed to fit the ever-changing literary climate.

“to Wallace”: To write a generalization-laden essay over and over again, often employing a once fresh but now tired stylistic device such as footnotes. (Or.: “Federer as Religious Experience”)


  1. But neither the O’Connor nor the Rea is “a literary prize ostensibly designed to assist struggling writers.” Both prizes are intended simply to reward excellence.

  2. “This Is/This Is Not” is pretty hysterical and I have to say I’m thrilled with the art – this blog, cartoons – inspired by the Chick-Lit hoop-de-doo, even when I’m one of the butts of the joke. That said, I’d love it if you’d now read the actual book – you might even like some of it!

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