Life's Little
Deconstruction Book:
Self-Help for the Post-Hip

by Andrew Boyd [who?]
dec '98 •
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A few years back I had the post-modern blues. I was feeling fractured, saturated and disembodied. I went to the self-help section of my local bookstore and found the shelves packed with advice on drinking too much, eating too little, working too late, and coming too soon—but nothing for my post-modern ailments. Without some quick do-it-yourself pointers, how was I ever going to get along with all of my selves, refine my signal-to-noise ratio, or make love ironically—never mind figure out what gender to be when I was doing it?

I realized that it was up to me to provide this advice. I decided to turn my journey through post-modern entropy into a book that could help others. Inspired by one of the more popular self-help series, I chose the title, "Life's Little Deconstruction Book: Self-Help for the Post-Hip" and immediately set about writing helpful, neatly-numbered post-modern maxims.

At first I relied upon my own experiences in everyday situations, such as travel (72. Dress as tourists imagine), arts & crafts (36. Maneuver between pastiche and mish-mash), and teen angst (197. Accessorize your rebellion). So far so good. But how far could it go?

Next I turned to the theoretical literature. Skimming through a dense academic textmass, I might come across, "Incredulity towards metanarratives, displaced by multiple localized histories, ruptures the..." Without bothering to read any further, I would quickly jot down "224. Forsake Marx, embrace Nietzsche" and move on. This process led to many great bits of advice, including: "302. Move the margins to the center" and "221. In the attempt to demystify, further obscure." The book grew.

No self-help book is complete without inspiring role-models. And after a careful consideration of the towering figures of the post-modern scene, I was able to add the following. Clinton: "13. Publicize your privates." Disney: "87. Take the kids to see a replica of what never was." Bill Gates: "335. Code or be coded." Madonna: "88. Be profoundly superficial." I was on a roll.

The final obstacle came when I realized no one would take me seriously as a straight-talking, no-nonsense post-modern self-help guru unless I was ironically self-referential. This led to "277. Use the word post-modern without being quite sure whether it is the dominant cultural logic of late capitalism or pop-culture shorthand for messy-looking buildings." It was a wrap.

I am happy to say the book is now flying off the shelves and spawning a post-modern self-help movement. There are PoMoToGo t-shirts, stickers, even fortune cookies. One woman told me that every morning she gets dressed to a "39. Perform your gender" stuck to her mirror. Some readers are even beginning to write their own maxims to better address the particular nuances of their own post-modern predicaments. To encourage this nascent movement, we're holding a contest to fill the empty 366 leap year slot. The best post-modern maxim will win a grand prize of a Japanese lawn ornament showing Santa nailed to a cross.

So the next time you have the blues, pop down to the self-help section of your local bookstore. If you are not sure whether your blues are pre-hip or post-hip, just pull down a copy of Life's Little Instruction Book and Life's Little Deconstruction Book and compare. Should you "Be original" or "33. Be as if?" "Own a good dictionary" or "138. Disperse yourself in a cloud of narrative elements?" "Teach your children the value of money and the importance of saving" or "261. Leverage fictitious capital?" This time around, no matter what side of the cultural divide you are on, there will be help waiting.