The Dilettantes – Michael Hingston


“Irony let you skip the part where you decided what you believed in.  Irony allowed you to look at a painting, or a moustache, or a bombed-out basement, and not give yourself an ulcer trying to scrape together some kind of meaning.  Irony was your best defence, and a good offence too.  You threw it up like armour.  It wasn’t a matter of fitting in; it was a matter of getting through the day.”

My first thought about reading this book was how glad I am to no longer be in the student environment where everyone gives too many shits about what other people think about them.  My second thought was how glad I am not to be surrounded by 20-year old assholes – there were a few characters in this book that I met in university and hated them then as I do now.

For a long time, I wanted to be a journalist.  The first step of being a journalist at a university that doesn’t have a single journalism course (like the U of A) is to volunteer for the student newspaper.  I visited their table at clubs fair, got a weird vibe, and never attended a single meeting.  And thus was the end of my journalism career.

Though continuing on the theme of local authors (last book read was by Diana Davidson), those two books couldn’t be more different.  The conflicts in Pilgrimage were so important, so necessary for survival,  so the conflict here seems so silly by comparison – Metro newspaper is threatening the life of a student newspaper run by a bunch of asshole kids?  Oh nooooo.

Despite being wholly annoyed by the characters and their irony and pretentiousness (and I’m not going to lie, I was probably exactly like that as a university English student too so who am I to judge), Michael Hingston does a perfect job at capturing that “post-ironic” generation and the minor struggles that feel like the end of the world to someone in their early twenties.  In that, I think the book is incredibly self-aware of how annoying these characters are, so while I found them unlikeable I still enjoyed this book. It never felt at any point like the writing was trying too hard; it read exactly as if someone just put a tape recorder in a student journalist lounge to see what would happen, punctuated by Hingston’s clever commentary.

Books read: 7


One response to “The Dilettantes – Michael Hingston

  1. I loved this book. I wasn’t that type of university student, at all (the type who cares about things related to school – I didn’t even make it to club day) but it all rang very true. I also laughed out loud many times! I’d love to hear what a current university student thinks.

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