“Hairy, airy, Sophie- four eyes, four eyes!”
Every word is punctuated by a sharp slap, a swift kick, and a trickle of warm spit.
Then Mrs Maleigh appears on the porch, ringing the brass bell.
The flushed tormentors scurry into the schoolroom, leaving Sophie Turner to sit up.
Snow powders her tattered coat. She’s lost one of her precious winter gloves, but there’s no time to look for it. She hurries after her classmates, knowing full-well why she is singled out.
The other children can smell it on her, the oddness. She isn’t a townie. She wears patchy old clothes and too-big boots. Her frizzy black hair won’t sit in a sleek, fat plait like the other little girls’, and she has a pair of thick glasses like two telescopic lenses.
As Miss Maleigh begins her lessons, mean fingers pinch one of Sophie’s old bruises. She bites her lower lip. Another pinch… and another, punctuated by giggles. Then the fingers start on her hair. One, two- three frizzy threads are yanked out by the roots.
In this book, Greg Farrell brings the minutiae of millennial life to the page. Farrell is quick to poke humor at his privileged upbringing and many neuroses. In the first story, he notes that he moved to Brooklyn to escape the endless car/job cycle of his hometown in Long Island (you need a car to get to the job, you need a job to afford the car). Farrell writes that he “saw New York City as a refuge from those things,” but was “oblivious to the trials that would await me there.” Indeed, his comfortable suburban upbringing leaves him unprepared to handle even the most basic challenges of city life, such as living with pests, shady landlords, and unreliable roommates.
A series of unconnected vignettes about Farrell’s life over the decades, both in and out of Brooklyn, the collection is scattered at times. Some vignettes stand out, such as a sweet Christmas when the family bands together to buy Farrell’s younger brother a Wii before supplies run out, and a charming look at the history of the Jewish deli B&H. Farrell, an admittedly anxious person, makes for an unreliable narrator at times, as in a story about his electromagnetic hypersensitivity syndrome, a form of hypochondria, which he seems aggrieved that the rest of the world doesn’t take “seriously.” He has a distinct point of view and clear voice, and his stories definitely read as honest. When he shares his thoughts about girls or roommates it seems like a true depiction of his inner dialogue, which, though de rigueur in diary comics, sometimes feels like oversharing to this reader. For example, when Farrell talks about a female roommate he had an argument with, he notes that he had “two wet dreams wherein I ate her pussy.” Farrell’s viewpoint can be myopic at times, rarely venturing beyond his internal monologue. The collection is at its best when he focuses his lens outside of himself on his family and the outside world.
The book itself is a beautifully-printed edition with clear, easy to read text and a simple, eye-catching cover. Overall, Hipster is an interesting read (despite having little to do with hipsters, or Brooklyn).