Christy Wampole's Opinionator piece in the Sunday New York Times, "How to Live Without Irony," has a lot of people talking, ironically or otherwise. In it, Wampole, who is an assistant professor of French at Princeton, discusses "the ethos of our age," or "ironic living," as represented by the—you knew this was inevitable—hipster, who "haunts every city street and university town" hiding in plain sight, or not hiding at all, clad in the material trappings of irony. You know, again: "outmoded fashions (the mustache, the tiny shorts), mechanisms (fixed-gear bicycles, portable record players) and hobbies (home brewing, playing trombone)," as well as fashions of the internal sort—"awkwardness," "self-consciousness," "self-scrutiny," and relentless study of "what has yet to be found by the mainstream." Yet by seeking what hasn't been "found" by the mainstream and appropriating those things, the mustache, the tiny shorts, and the fixies all become just another brand of mainstream, albeit one hated by those who choose not to adopt them, who dub them and those who love them "hipster." It's irony, wrapped in irony, inside more irony.
Wampole calls the hipster a symptom of ironic living and not the affliction itself, but the illustrations in the piece all depict this symptom (the hipster) with, I think, quite a lot of enjoyment, as do any number of recent Styles section pieces affirming the trendiness of the man bun and the beard. Because of that, the irony of a piece on irony in the New York Times is not lost on the appreciator of deep, mysterious ironies. Is the Times being ironic, which would be a kind of uber-irony? Truly, Wampole seems earnest, here. She appears to be actually tired of irony, and tired of those hipsters, and also concerned about what we've suffered because of it—lack of good conversations and face-to-face communication and decent Christmas presents, perhaps, in favor of narcissism and quick quips and easy laughs. She asks, "Where can we find other examples of nonironic living? What does it look like? Nonironic models include very young children, elderly people, deeply religious people, people with severe mental or physical disabilities, people who have suffered, and those from economically or politically challenged places where seriousness is the governing state of mind."