Posts Tagged With: culture

Weird Like Us: My Bohemian America by Ann Powers

Date of Publication: 2001, Da Capo Press

Number of Pages: 287

Description: Writer Ann Powers delves into her past and her past relationships to find her bohemia, the one she had always looked for. From Seattle, to San Francisco, to New York City, Powers finds her bohemian America is both likely and unlikely places: record stores, universities, punk clubs, suburban backyards, and pricey New York lofts.

Review: This is a much more personal book than I had anticipated. Ann Powers traces her own bohemianism from her childhood in Seattle to her present life in New York, all the while relating the life stories of friends and acquaintances who have defined their lives by their own versions of bohemia. Some of the ideas presented, like those regarding drugs and drug use, appear to be simply justifications of poor choices and bad behavior: junkies masquerading as bohemians. It’s almost as if one can’t be a bohemian without doing drugs. At the same time, Powers makes allowances for many of the “selling out” behaviors that would normally be scorned by true bohemians, such as working in corporate America.

Powers focuses mainly on her own brand of bohemianism, that of the punk scene of the 1980s. But, she never really delves that deeply into it. After reading this book, I don’t feel like I understand the punk scene any better than before. The punk rockers and bohemians, as presented by Powers, feel superficial and somehow as if they’re trying too hard. Another drawback is how outdated this book is. Powers devotes a whole section to the Speakeasy internet cafe in Seattle, which actually burned down in 2001, the same year my edition was published. Many of the cultural references are old, which some may think is excusable, but in all honesty, a book devoted to any cultural phenomenon or philosophy should be able to transcend time. This book doesn’t do that.

All in all, I enjoyed this book, but there were several aspects of it that disappointed me. But I would still recommend it to anyone interested in counter-culture or music.

Rating: 5/10

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Bohemian Manifesto: A Field Guide to Living on the Edge by Laren Stover

bohemian-manifesto.jpg

Illustrations by IZAK

Date of Publication: 2004, Bullfinch Press

Number of Pages: 265

Synopsis (from inside cover): Bohemianism is a way of life, a state of mind, an atmosphere. It’s about living richly and irreverently, beyond convention. It’s about being uninhibited, unbuttoned, creative and free.

Bohemian Manifesto is your entry into this world. It distills the penchants and peccadilloes of every kind of Bohemian and examines their vanities, vehicles, poetry, performances and passions – everything that makes the Bohemian so deviant yet so divinely seductive. What’s on their shelves? In the tub? On the turntable? What’s running wild? Bohemian Manifesto shimmers with all the incandescent ingredients that give counter-culture lifestyle its romantic reputation.

With humor and charm, this book inspires the way out of a brand-washed mass-market consumerist culture and into decadently delicious Bohemianism. Feel it, smell it, taste it, inhale it, and embrace, if you dare, its manifesto!

Review: This is one of those books that you can read over and over again. It’s not only humorous in its descriptions of Bohemian living, but it’s a wonderful escape from the rampant materialism that drives our everyday world. The Bohemian doesn’t worry about cleaning or working or any of those things that we think about constantly. Instead, Bohemian life centers on sensual and intellectual pleasures. Instead of “playing the game”, they do what they really want to do, whatever that may be, despite the consequences. It’s an incredibly seductive image to those like me who are scared of being trapped in the corporate box, which seems to lie in wait for everyone at some point in their lives.

Laren Stover obviously has knowledge of her subject, unlike some other writers who treat Bohemianism academically. Instead of presenting us with a romanticized image of care-free Bohemians, she presents us with the human side of the Bohemians. Although she does not dwell on the downside to to Bohemianism, the picture she paints is no less real. This book does not inspire me with the urge to abandon my home, family, and friends and hit the road with some traveling band of street performers. But it does inspire me to look at my life in a new way, and to adopt ways to live more naturally, outside the confines of the narrowly-defined norms that dictate our behavior, and sometimes even out thoughts. Bohemian Manifesto indeed provides us with a way out. I recommend that everyone read and take from this book something that will rescue them from the trappings of modern society.

Rating: 10/10

Reviewed by Sarah

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