The Writing Disorder


lily murphy




by Lily Murphy

      One Spring day while sipping cider in a beer garden with my friend, a conversation emerged regarding counter cultures. My friend stated that a spectre is haunting the 21st century, that of the Hipster. I scoffed at such a statement “that is just ridiculous, Hipsters are not new, they have always been here and will remain.” The conversation got heated and not with the aid of the blisteringly hot sun shining down on us. “Hipsters are a new counter culture” my friend went on and the conversation resulted in glasses being turned over and a barring order for the both of us from the barman so I went home to re-read my very worn out copy of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.
      I knew that in order to find the Hipster, I needed to read the roots of the Hipster and I was hell bent on proving my friend wrong. Google can kiss my ass on this one I thought as I stumbled in the door and searched for the Hipster in the one place from where it sprung from, that 1957 publication about one man’s mad journeys across America with his even madder friends. On the Road was a book I didn’t read until after I graduated from University, I now know it should have been a book to be read while I was a student but parties on campus and pure idleness got in the way of that. It was the day after my final exam and feeling incredibly idle I wandered into town to my favourite bookstore where I picked up a copy of On the Road. I still don’t know what made me pick it up and spend 10 Euro on it, a 10 Euro note which I could have easily spent in a bar but I purchased the book, went home and spent the rest of that summer sinking into it under the summer skies out in my back garden accompanied with buckets of beer.
      By the time Summer transformed itself into Winter and then Winter made way for the Springtime, that heated conversation with my friend regarding Hipsters had taken place. By then I had read On the Road several times over and had been in the grip of a host of other works from the beat generation but it was On the Road to which I kept going back to. The poet Allen Ginsberg once said that he saw the best minds of his generation destroyed by madness, well it was that book which generated that madness, the only thing it destroyed was anything mundane that got in its way.
      Nearly every generation of youth have been labelled with some sort of tag. The Hipster tag is a slang which may have emerged with the jazz aficionados of the 1940s but its social awareness came about with the Beatniks and as my friend had informed me that culture, the Hipster culture, is haunting us now. I had told my friend and told in the most snapping of tones that the Hipster is nothing new, yes it has transformed to set itself into modern world mechanics but I stressed that the Hipster counter culture is not new. In today’s world it is used to describe the urban chic, young adults who reject aspects of mainstream life such as music and fashion, some may call them Scenesters but what ever they are and who ever they are, they have always been with us throughout the generations and they all have one thing in common, they are all the mad ones.
      I sent a text to my friend later that night after the episode in the beer garden that day which saw us at each others throats. We organised a meeting for a few drinks for the next day, all animosity quickly goes under the bridge, especially if it’s a river of booze flowing underneath it!
      Hipsters now champion the underground music scene as they did in the '40s and '50s with music such as bebop, a music which transcended the great divide of that time: race. Black and white jazzed together, used the same slang, dressed the same way, smoked the same drugs, flouted the same sarcasms, they adopted the lifestyle some frowned upon or some could only dream of. Back in the beginning of it all Artie Shaw, a legend of the swing age, went so far as to call Bing Crosby the “first hip white person in the United states,” even the squares wanted in on the new culture, a culture which emerged from the jazz underground and writings of so called mad men, now it transcends out of Indie music and the tweeting of know alls.
      So the following day I met with my friend. We went to a different bar at a different side of town of course and I was armed to the tooth with Kerouacism‘s. Two ciders later and it’s a free for all beatnik induced talk, its wall to wall Kerouacism! “The only ones for me are the mad ones…” the most quoted of all sentences in On the Road describing in its utter simplicity who the Hipster were and are, they are “mad to talk, and to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones that never yawn or say a commonplace thing but burn burn burn…” My friend was not impressed, “well they didn’t burn enough,” she said, “because they are still here with us!” I rejoiced, finally she understands that Hipsters were always here, that they are not something new and nothing to fear. Ah yes therein lay the next hurdle, my friend has a fear of the Hipster, something I failed to notice the day before, something lost in the translations of altercations.
      “I am not a fan of the Hipster” my friend bluntly stated, “I am off for a top up, you want another?” I nodded while handing over a 5 Euro note and while my Hipster fearing friend went to the bar for another two glasses of cider I was left to ponder the outcome of that day’s prospective argument regarding Hipsters. Oh fuck you Hipsters I thought, fuck you for causing such conflict between my friend and I on such a fine day!
      If On the Road is the Hipster guidebook than Howl is the Hipster’s verse. I must confess that I do not have much interest in Ginsberg’s meandering words but Howl does have the mother of all beginnings “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness,” Hipsters can attribute that to their own stance in society. Mad is a word which pops up over and over again regarding Hipsters, it is a word not to be fooled with or a status not to be fucked with, the mad minds made that way by madness can enjoy what so many long for: freedom.
      Even if it means a life of poverty, it costs nothing to have freedom of the mind. Hipsters in the beginning had freedom of the mind and in great quantities but I fail to think today’s Hipsters have the free imaginations as much as their predecessors had, here’s hoping though and here came my Hipster fearing friend with the promised top up of cider. “What is it that you do not like about the Hipsters?” I asked and before my friend could answer I just kept on talking, “you know Hipsters have great ecstasy of the mind, unlike you and me they are not restrained to the modern world, such as sipping cider in a beer garden in town in the middle of the day, where’s the freedom in that? And hey where’s my change?”
      Kerouac’s road was a route found only in dreams, he was a dreamer yes but aren’t all hipsters just that. Somewhere in part one chapter seven of On the Road Kerouac wrote that “the air was soft, the stars so fine, the promise of every cobbled alley so great that I thought I was in a dream.” Well it was a dream Mr. Kerouac because that America and that world is gone, by Christ it wasn’t even there in the first place, it was all a dream but a mighty one at that. I must not be controlled by bitterness and instead state that that dream is constant, it still carries merit today with those mad minds of the new Hipster generation. But to bring the bitterness back for just a minute and state that that dream is in danger of being watered down by people such as me and that dream is also in danger of being wrecked by people such as my friend, the one who fears hipsters and the one who left me short changed!
      Kerouac wrote in that great Hipster manual that “they were like the man with the dungeon stone and gloom, rising from the underground, the sordid hipsters of America, a new beat generation that I was slowly joining,” well I may be somewhat sinking into the cauldron of Hipsterdom myself but I still had a lot of convincing of my friend to do, to convince her there was nothing to fear from the Hipster.
      “You don’t bode well with Hipster ideology?” I enquired of my friend, a nod was the reply. “Well I’ll soon fix that,” I said with a fake smile, faked because I knew I couldn’t fix anything at all. “Now I know that we are not middle class like the Hipster,” I said, “but we can lie through our working class teeth, the Hipster does pretty much anything to play down their middle class back round, so we’ll fit right in, the problem may lie within the adoption of a carefree life style, I can adopt it, can you?” A shake of the head and a scornful look was the reply from my friend so I stopped talking and let a brief breeze come by and fill in the forthcoming silence.
      I think the bohemian type life is the life for me, not my friend the cider sipping hipster fearing anti-free thinker. The Hipsters gained their quality from the anti-establishment attitudes they freely threw around, these days Hipsters are still anti-authoritarian, to a point. Non-conformity is the back bone of modern Hipsters, spontaneous creativity seems to have been lost to the beat generation but it may rear its hedonistic head again, for as long as the world turns, so too does culture. The beaten down is from where the beatnik name sprung from and when they were turned from being the beaten down into tired beatniks they jumped up and developed into Hipsters. Kerouac’s circle of friends gave birth to craziness, craziness gave birth to the beats, the beats gave birth to a natural generalization: the Hipster. It spread and prolonged through the decades.
      “I’m cool whether or which,” my friend let me know as we ventured onto the next drink from where count was therein lost. “Anti-conformist bastards usually in the end join the masses,&lrdquo; she spat out and I agreed, somewhat. Well I sipped my cider, took in the cider soaked air and went off on another cider induced rant, again. “The Hipster may in the end JOIN the masses but the Hipster will never be ONE of the masses, the Hipster may join them on the street, you may pass one and not think twice as to whether he or she is a member of a counter culture but the Hipster mind will NEVER be part of the masses, the Hipster mind is a kind which REJECTS the mainstream.” When I finished my mini rant my friend pointed out to me, “Of course a Hipster will stand out on the street, a hipster is quite visible on the street,” then I jumped in, “Ah with the Elvis Costello type glasses,” I suggested, “no,” she stated crossly, “they stand out as the one with little or no body fat, the one who looks starved for days.”
      The skinny jeans, shoulder strapped bag and bored to death expressions may carry the Hipster through life but the conversation between my friend and I regarding this counter culture did not carry through us through the day and many glasses of cider later and many slurred words and flapping of arms and pointing of fingers later, the conversation ended and we both parted ways that evening. All went well I thought, we didn’t get into a hot headed argument and get thrown out of that juice joint! But just as Sal Paradise sat on the pier at the end of On the road looking into the sunset he thought and thought deeply on religion, on America, even on the crying of children and not knowing what would happen in the future and he finished his thinking with thoughts of his road buddy, Dean Moriarty the maddest of them all, “I think of Dean Moriarty, I even think of old Dean Moriarty the father we never found, I think of Dean Moriarty.”
      I went home that night and looked out my window at the grey road outside and the red sky above it and thought of the alternatives who walk amongst us and those who are weary of them, my friend, the one who fears the Hipster. I went once more for my favourite book and turned the pages until I found the page I was looking for, “What is that feeling when you are driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? — its too-huge world vaulting us, and its goodbye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”

Lily Murphy is 24 and comes from Cork city, Ireland. She graduated from University College Cork with a B.A. in history and Politics and has had a number of fiction pieces appear in publications such as Hulltown 360 journal, Pot luck magazine, Sleet, Pom pom pomeranian from Bank Heavy press, The delinquent and The toucan among others. Lily also contributes political and cultural pieces to magazines such as New Politics, 4Q, Monthly review, The Chartist and Ceasefire. When she is not writing, Lily enjoys sipping Jack Daniels at the race track or hanging out with nature!

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