The Hipless Boy
For a book written by a hipster who claims not to be a hipster, The Hipless Boy is remarkably free of the pretension and irony that plague much of hipster culture. Appearances are made by actual hipster hangouts, but there is no name-dropping, and no inside jokes. In this regard, Tjia’s stories are a breath of fresh air, and surprisingly sweet and lovely. Sully is surely one of the most affable characters around, and it rubs off.
And yet something is lacking. Affable, benign, harmless…the book “channel surfs” through Sully’s days. He befriends cats, he goes on coffee dates with girls, he rides the bus and takes art classes, he hangs out with his friends. In other words, nothing much happens – at least nothing of consequence. This light approach only carries the book so far, for soon we realize why The Hipless Boy is so easy to flip through: Sully has very little to say.
The harmless approach does allow Tjia to honestly treat subjects that a less judicious hand would have made crass, offensive, or just plain awkward. And yet he misses opportunities for more depth: the brief mention of a homeless man comes across as unsympathetic, and the one attempt to tackle a darker subject – teenage suicide – feels oddly placed.
Thankfully, the lack of narrative is countered with illustrations that are undeniably gorgeous. Sully draws with clean, confident lines, and with the consistency of an artist who has honed his style. No detail clutters the images, which are rich in black and white, and shadow-blues.
Pleasant to read, wonderful to look at. Whether or not the reader leaves the book wanting something more, Sully’s world is a friendly, inviting one. mRb