How Did Cool Become Such a Big Deal?
The personification of cool, however, continued to be the hipster. Norman Mailer, a close reader of Anatole Broyard, was clearly influenced by Broyard’s essays on the subject, but made the connection to black culture even more explicit in “The White Negro.”
Mailer’s essay is a manifesto of sorts, against conformity, against large organizations, modern society, squares, and anyone else helping to uphold the big lie of American life. He spoke for those who, having lived through World War II, now understood that all could die at any second. Humanity had proven itself a great collective murderer, and the modern state was its greatest weapon. White people, Mailer tried to show, were thus forced into the condition of black people who had lived “on the margin between totalitarianism and democracy for two centuries.”