Hipness Vs. Beatness


Clip Job: an excerpt every day from the Voice archives.

May 28, 1958, Vol. III, No. 31

The Scene

Dear Sir:

OK, I’ve heard enough. This is the generation after the beat generation talking, and here’s the scene:

Like the beat generation was about the uncoolest that ever walked the earth. Overtly after kicks, open to the muck and fever.

Hipness starts where beatness leaves off. And where all the 1930’s humanism shuts its trap too (this is for you, Voice).

And it has nothing against form. It is form–almost nothing else. Because form is cooler than any experiment in or out of the book, and you can swing farther out inside a set of rules than you ever could naked. E.g., Cocteau, who knew this 30 years ago. Dig also Radiguet.

And it’s an ethic. Based probably on a deeper and more abiding respect for the human personality than any humanist can conceive of. Like it asks nothing of people. And pushes nothing on them. Including love. Like there are some silences you don’t break.

Which is the ethic. Leave People Alone. The cleanest one you can get to in this love-thy-neighbor freudian marxist rot. (Side note: beware determinism. You start to tamper with causes to get at effects.)

Hipness is based on a more intimate knowledge of being beaten than the beat generation would have stood.

Just like any human being digs that all men must die and that jazz–the really hip cat digs that the whole human scene has come to a standstill. Like it’s all over. And that’s nothing to protest about.

Like protest as a gesture is OK. Do not go gentle and that jazz. Good for individual (sic) sense of honor. In a way hipness is knowing just how much is gesture.

(Writing letters is a gesture.) You can see I’m only on the fringe of this scene. Belong to a hung generation some place between the Beat and the Next.

Like the only really hip cats are going on 16 now. Wait until they grow up.

— Diane Di Palma, East Houston Street

[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956.]