The Unlost Generation
March 3, 2015 6:11 PM   Subscribe

The White Negro, Norman Mailer, 1957.
It is on this bleak scene that a phenomenon has appeared: the American existentialist—the hipster, the man who knows that if our collective condition is to live with instant death by atomic war, relatively quick death by the State as l’univers concentrationnaire, or with a slow death by conformity with every creative and rebellious instinct stifled (at what damage to the mind and the heart and the liver and the nerves no research foundation for cancer will discover in a hurry) , if the fate of twentieth century man is to live with death from adolescence to premature senescence, why then the only life-giving answer is to accept the terms of death, to live with death as immediate danger, to divorce oneself from society, to exist without roots, to set out on that uncharted journey into the rebellious imperatives of the self.

The White Negro and the Negro White, Gary T. Marx, 1967
James Baldwin has stated, "We take our shape, it is true, within and against that cage of reality bequeathed us at our birth; ...black is the color of evil" and Negroes must live with this. This paper is concerned with a segment of those who must live with the stigma of being black. It is also concerned with the behavior of some whites who would perhaps say, "White is the color of evil; must middle-class Caucasians live with this?"
A Very Complex Thing: The Battleground between James Baldwin and Norman Mailer

Norman Mailer: The Autocrat of the Remainder Table

Norman Mailer's Hipster Theory: Whatever Became Of The White Negro?, 2007

What Was The Hipster? The hipster was hip

Let’s Be Clear: Norman Mailer’s Wife-Stabbing Was Not Art
posted by the man of twists and turns (16 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
Both writers were great stylists and Baldwin on being black in Am seems to be making a comeback since what he has said still is applicable.
mailer alas is slipping into lit history
posted by Postroad at 6:24 PM on March 3, 2015


Baldwin is worth a hundred or more of Mailer, in my opinion. Two thoughts of Baldwin's quoted in the "A Very Complex Thing" link:
On Mailer's "The White Negro": "But why should it be necessary to borrow the Depression language of deprived Negroes, which eventually evolved into jive and bop talk, in order to justify such a grim system of delusions? Why malign the sorely menaced sexuality of Negroes in order to justify the white man’s own sexual panic?"
On Mailer more generally, in 1984: "Well, perhaps he's a perfect example of what it means to be a white writer in this century, a white American writer in this country. It affords too many opportunities to avoid reality." Reminds me of Ta-Nehisi Coates's recent thoughts on that topic.
I wish it were true that, as Baldwin said in Notes of a Native Son, “this world is white no longer, and it will never be white again.” We are still very far from that place.
posted by sallybrown at 6:53 PM on March 3, 2015 [6 favorites]


Terry Southern wrote a story, "You're Too Hip, Baby," about, as I recall, a black jazz musician and his wife in Paris who become friends with a white hipster. They spend the entire story trying to figure out why he wants to be friends with them -- he doesn't seem to have any interest in anything they have to offer him, including piano lessons and, eventually, sex. Finally, they come to the conclusion that he just wants to be part of the scene, to have black jazz musicians as friends, and so they dump him, their only explanation to him being that he's too hip.
posted by maxsparber at 7:06 PM on March 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


Ever play they game: "What is the one law you would create if you were Emperor of the World?" My stock answer for a couple of decades now has been: I'd enforce a miscegenation law wherein one is required to procreate with someone of a different skin color.

After a couple of generations of that we'd all be Polynesian.

And I've enjoyed reading Mailer here and there, but give me Baldwin as a more serious human being.
posted by CincyBlues at 7:23 PM on March 3, 2015




Baldwin on Mailer:

“Matters were not helped at all by the fact that negro jazz musicians, among who we sometimes found ourselves, did not for an instant consider him as being even remotely “hip” and Norman did not know this and I could not tell him. He never broke through to them, at least not as far as I know; and they were far too ‘hip,’ if that is the word I want, even to consider breaking through to him. They thought he was a real sweet ofay cat, but a little frantic."
posted by jason's_planet at 8:21 PM on March 3, 2015 [2 favorites]




I'd enforce a miscegenation law wherein one is required to procreate with someone of a different skin color.

After a couple of generations of that we'd all be Polynesian.


I find this troubling.

I'd suggest that the problem is racial prejudice, not racial diversity. I don't want everyone to be Polynesian, I just want us to stop being racist.
posted by howfar at 12:49 AM on March 4, 2015 [8 favorites]


I'd suggest that the problem is racial prejudice, not racial diversity. I don't want everyone to be Polynesian, I just want us to stop being racist.

I guarantee that if we were all a lovely shade of tropical brown, differences in skin tone imperceptible to most of us now would be hugely important to racists, and the world would still be a shitty place.
posted by maxwelton at 2:25 AM on March 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


On the plus side, the forced-procreation part would solve our dangerous underpopulation problem once and for all.
posted by box at 5:23 AM on March 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Capote on Mailer is pretty well known; Capote on Baldwin perhaps less so.
posted by BWA at 6:36 AM on March 4, 2015


Capote on Mailer is pretty well known; Capote on Baldwin perhaps less so.

(The LeRoi Jones Capote calls "a total fraud, artistically and politically" and "just another hypocrite" would later change his name to Amiri Baraka.)
posted by sallybrown at 7:59 AM on March 4, 2015



Ever play they game: "What is the one law you would create if you were Emperor of the World?" My stock answer for a couple of decades now has been: I'd enforce a miscegenation law wherein one is required to procreate with someone of a different skin color.


It's been the de facto situation in Brazil, Peru, Mexico, and India.

Notice all 4 countries have a caste system.

Sorry.
posted by ocschwar at 8:16 AM on March 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


So, to answer your question, and not to be all "I'd wish for more wishes," it's "Laws will be created by committee."
posted by box at 8:18 AM on March 4, 2015


Note to self: do research to see if Montesquieu was also not much fun at parties.
posted by CincyBlues at 11:31 AM on March 4, 2015


Dude, I am less fun at parties than you can possibly imagine.

I make Calvin Coolidge look like Bill Clinton.
posted by box at 11:50 AM on March 4, 2015


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