Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Insider’s Perspective: The Hip and the Square

 

Hip and SquareIn the fall 2006 exhibition Norman Mailer Takes on America, visitors were asked to record their thoughts on three different topics that Norman Mailer had responded to over the course of his writing career. Composition notebooks and pencils were provided for visitor response, and the notebooks have become part of the Ransom Center's archive.

One of the notebooks addressed the ideas of “hip” and “square.” Norman Mailer started thinking in earnest about the idea of “hip” in 1956 when a Village Voice reader wrote to him at the newspaper with the following question: “Tell me, what is your definition of a Hip person? A third rate rape artist or a boy who digs Shakespeare, Milton and Freud?” Mailer’s answer, in a Voice column: “Could be either.”

In the year that followed, Mailer wrote frequently about the opposing terms “hip” and “square,” both of which are still in use today. Here are some of the responses that visitors came up with to define the terms.

Image: (Detail) Norman Mailer’s “The Hip and the Square: 1. The List” in Advertisements for Myself (New York: Putnam’s, 1959)

 

HIP     
Text messaging   
Square     
Solar     
Grasshopppers    
“Pop”     
iPods     
Walkman    
China     
Platinum    
Brooklyn    
Spirituality    
Physical activity   
South First    
Prius     
Hip Hop    
Flip-flops    
The naked    
Jon Stewart    
Stephen Colbert    
Shade     
Kinky     
Crocs     
Mailer     
Mailer     
Facebook    
Sketchy    
Now     
PBS     
John Lennon    
The Fleur Cowles room  
Foucault    
Cooking    
Blogosphere    
Psychiatry    
Intelligent women   
Converse    
Math     
Self-involved    
Modernity    
Starbucks    
Mailer then    
Austin     
Jeans     
Smacking gum   
Hot pink    
Imperfection    
Sushi     
Stripes     
Permed hair    
Tofu     
Target     
Stick-on earrings   
Unicorns    
Paper scraps    
Reagan     
Veronica Mars   
Indie     
Homosexual    
Cowboys    
You     
Weird glasses    
Plastic frames    
Hybrid     
Suspenders    
Man purses    
Being square    
Barton Springs   
UT     
80s rock bands    
Patterns    
ACL     
Mac     
Dell     
No. 2     
Flared trousers    
Ninjas     
Cigarettes    
Organic    
Tinky Winky    
Polly Pocket    
Bangs (swept to one side)  
Lost     
Stripes     
Brangelina    
Healthy food    
Childhood obesity   
Fred Cantu    
Grey’s Anatomy   
Old Lost    
Jon Stewart    
Barack Obama    
DVD     
Jessica Alba    
Mikes and Ikes   
T-shirts with slogans   
Tapas     
Leggings    
Cycling    
Tofu     
Independence    
Moped     
Sexy     
Hippie     
Cartography    
Anonymity    
Keeping old things   
Nature     
Love     
Honesty    
McSteamy    
Ellen     
Topolski    
Mary Kate Olsen   
Political apathy   
Live music    
Home cooking    
Kurt Vonnegut   
Jeffrey’s     
Liberty Lunch    
Writing on alley walls   
Emo kids    
Colorful clothing   
Hips that don’t lie   
Writing letters    
Bands or hip-hop   
True self    
Leaders    
Hookah    
Vintage    
Lexus     
Just being    
Clubs     
To seduce without meaning to 
Crushing    
Christmas    
Feminism    
Spiderman    
IMDB     
Halliburton    
Marilyn Monroe   
JFK     
Village Voice    
Gay marriage    
“With the program”   
Jung     
Libertarians    
Henry Miller    
Hyperlink    
Digital     
UT     

 


 

SQUARE
Talking on cell phone
Sophisticate
Oil
Crickets
“Soda”
Walkman
iPods
Europe
Gold
Manhattan
Religion
Couch potato
South Congress
SUV
Rap
Flip-flops with heels
The dead
Bill O’Reilly
Ann Coulter
Sun
Perry
Shoes
William Bennet
Bush
MySpace
Shady
Never
MTV
Paul McCartney
The Tom Lea room
Freud
Microwaving
Cable news
Psychology
Dumb blondes
Nike
Religion
Human
History
Folgers
Mailer now
Dallas
Khakis
Blowing bubbles
Teal
Trying too hard
Pasta
Floral prints
Curling irons
Dead animals
Wal-Mart
Hoops
Goats
Notebooks
Clinton
The O.C.
Punk rock
Metrosexual
Cowboys
Me
Contacts
Wire frames
Hummers
Belts
Backpacks and pockets
Everything else
Circle C Pool
OU
Rap
Minimalism
CMT
Dell
Mac
No. 1
Tight jeans
Black belts
Lung cancer
Veggie-eaters
Barney
Bratz
Bangs (across the forehead)
Desperate Housewives
Plaid
TomKat
Fried things
Skinny tykes
Katie Couric
ER
New Lost
Conan O’Brien
Colin Powell
VHS
Britney Spears
Good and Plenty
Plain clothes
Conventional meals
Bell bottoms
Driving
Chicken
Mom
Motorcycle
Slutty
Preppie
Mapquest
Fame
Shopping
Controlled environment
Lust
Doing what’s “right”
McDreamy
Oprah
Thomas Kincade
Ashley Olsen
Rallies
CDs
Fast food
Stephen King
Elaine’s
6th Street
Writing on books in museums
Straight edge
All grey
Hips that lie
MySpace
Orchestra music
Posers
Followers
Cigarettes
Gap
Volkswagon
Trying to be hip
Frat parties
To seduce purposely
Liking
Easter
Patriarchal societies
Superman
MySpace
Peace Corps
Laura Bush
LBJ
New York Times
Gay divorce
“Doesn’t get it”
Freud
Democrats/Republicans
Arthur Miller
Sequential
Analog
A&M