When I looked for recognizable elements of hipsterism in the Regency, I started to spot them here and there. A certain angry “counter-cultural” world-weariness, love of irony, and cynical fascination with excess seems to pop up with regularity in history—from the Restoration rakes, to the French decadent poets who liked to épater la bourgeoisie (shock the middle class) by writing poems about anarchy and sex workers or walking turtles on leashes at the mall (yes this was a thing), to the Bright Young Things of the 1920s and 30s.
Is it a coincidence that those examples all follow on the heels of traumatizing periods of economic depression, social upheaval, or war? Probably not.
I’m at Jaunty Quills today giving away books and talking about my rather intense fear of change, decluttering, and how Jeannie Lin made me cry in her novella with this story about a paper lantern:
When I was a child, I’d received a lantern once for the Spring Festival. It was pink and painted with flowers. I’d loved that lantern for an hour. A breeze had caught it while it hung from a tree in our courtyard, tipping the candle inside over and igniting the paper.
I’d wept after the servants put the fire out as I stared at the ruined shell. I would never have that bit of happiness, the glow of that moment in the same way ever again.
I wanted the moment with Gao back with the same empty sorrow now.