‘Hipster Baby Names’ is a great concept for a book. Simple to slap together, and perfect timing to emphathise with contemporary folk treading that delicate line between being socially hip and socially responsible (ie: in the family way).
Alas, the further along you read of this A-Z of 322 “really, really ridiculously good names for your kid”, you sense author Tobias Anthony is far less pro hipster and more into taking the proverbial piss.
While the book’s subtitle might stipulate “good” names within, somehow a third of them have been deemed by Anthony as being on the “ridiculous” side. To add insult to injury, he takes ideal subjects that could make for good subtle humour but uses them as vitriolic ammunition.
Take the example of (yes, the rather absurd) baby name suggestion “Soy”. “This one was bound to pop up, wasn’t it?” begs our writer. “Just like the milk you insist on drinking, your precious bundle of joy is going to one day drive us all to distraction. But you don’t care, do you? It’s your lifestyle. Your choice.”
It’s fairly harmless to read a couple of these sarcastic quips, but to pack a third of the book with them only works to offend the target readership rather than appeal to it.
If, from the offset, the compiler of quirky noms made it clear that hipster culture itself was one whose irony would eventually dry up when real responsibility sets in, like having a baby, he could then criticise it till the organic-fed cows came home. At least then the reader would know where he officially stands.
But to hover in the middle of the field, waving a flag that reads “You’re OK… but some aspects of your culture make me cringe” doesn’t cut it in the “good for you” guide-book genre – not even under the ‘humour’ category.
Hipsters know they’re forever under the scrutiny of supposed non-hipsters. It’s the accepted karmic joke put on them for all the craft-beer fuss and vaxxing-versus-non-vaxxing debate they’ve dish out themselves.
Instead of patronising them, the writer could have taken the total piss. And that’d be a book that’ll make them laugh – be they in the (often rather serious) family way or not. Antonino Tati
‘Hipster Baby Names’ is available in hardcover, RRP $22.99 through Smith Street Books / Simon & Schuster Australia.