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Bohemians: The Glamorous Outcasts Hardcover – November 1, 2000

3.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

A British professor of cultural studies weaves a heavily footnoted but clearly developed history of the idea and culture of the bohemian. Lord Byron was perhaps the first to embody the myths of art becoming life, of transgressive sexuality, and of opposition to bourgeois mentality. Wilson moves easily from London to Paris to New York's Greenwich Village and the Weimar Republic, from the nineteenth century to the 1960s, as she tells mesmerizing stories of Augustus John and Baudelaire, of Jackson Pollock and Neal Cassady, of Kiki and Caitlin Thomas. She illuminates the paradoxes inherent in the bohemian ideal, such as the view of drink as both enhancing the creative process and dulling the oversharp senses. She traces with particular skill the place of women, who almost universally end up in the role of support and mop-up. She even traces the "been there, done that" phrase to the early nineteenth-century Parisians, whose habitual response was a blase "Seen it!" Bohemian themes of dress, eroticism, and excess are thoroughly explored. Fascinating. GraceAnne DeCandido
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


'Her intellectual enthusiasm, ironic humour and delight in bohemian absurdity make this a fascinating book to read.' - Sheila Rowbotham, Financial Times; '... a book that is intricately informative, expertly researched and highly entertaining.' - Sally Cline, Literary Review --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 286 pages
  • Publisher: Rutgers University Press; First Edition edition (November 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813528941
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813528946
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #484,571 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
i actually really like this book & i am not an intellectual featherweight. i agree to an extent w/ the above- or belownoted comments; there are probably wavery facts herein. i wish there werent. unfortunately, that is something i see continually in non-fiction books, particularly bothersome when the reader [such as the other reviewer or myself] actually knows the obscure facts. i would say this problem is an artefact of the postpostmodern age, but i am certain it predates it. having seen so many supposed historical accounts resplendent w/ the same issues, i can only wonder how much we really know about anything that predates or is distant from our own situational awareness.

this book is, however, an excellent overview of a subject which should have but strangely has not been accorded too much book length scrutiny. since the bohemian contingent of postpostmodern life has been co-opted into the macrocosm &, in commitment, reduced to the nanocosm, perhaps people who pick this up will be more inspired & enlightened. @this point, there is not that much better in this realm for which one can hope.
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Format: Hardcover
Another unnecessary tome of the "publish or perish" variety. It merely documents that the author has identified and consulted written accounts of the phenomenon from the last 150 years and patched together a narrative that is very much of the cut-and-paste variety. No original research is evidenced; and where the author had the opportunity to correct gross errors of fact in sources quoted, it's just too much bother. To wit: on p. 237, "La Goulue...still there in the 1930s... In the background..stands an old man...Valentin-le-Désossé, her old dancing partner." Well, La Goulue was dead by early 1929 (30 Jan. to be exact), and her partner Valentin had slipped back into the perfectly bourgeois existence that he emerged from - to die in 1907.

On p. 246, Mrs. Wilson gives us two paragraphs on a "certain" Dr. Walter Serner (1889-1942). She appears to know nothing about him as a writer (of brilliantly unique short stories), but insists that he eventually disappears in the Soviet Union, "perhaps in search of the bohemian's always elusive utopia".

This romanticizing nonsense is especially galling, considering that Serner suffered the usual fate the Nazis had in store for Jews: he and his wife were arrested in Prague in 1942 and murdered a few months later, probably in Auschwitz.

The author's website tells us that she has written an autobiography at age 45, and is a feminist, lesbian and social activist. I'd say stick to it.
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Format: Hardcover
Elizabeth Wilson's work on bohemians is primarily an academic or historical study, meant to answer the question, "who were the bohemians?" She proceeds to answer the question in thoroughly historical and academic fashion, addressing different phases and locations of Bohemia over time, along with its leading figures. Wilson also covers the various ideologies held by the bohemians, as well as setting forward theories regarding the reason for the endurance and existence of this kind of enduring counter-culture. I rather wish this book had been included in my college history class on the Beats and Hippies, for while we did cover some of their bohemian predecessors, nothing was as extensive as Bohemians: the glamorous outcasts.

Particularly of note are the many chapters Wilson devoted to women in bohemian circles, as well as some of the other self-contradicting aspects of these counter-cultural personage's lives. Bohemians may have talked an awful lot about personal freedom and liberation, for example, but in reality many of the men kept their women in very traditional home roles. Wilson also spends time on the ways in which bohemians reacted to their haunts and activities becoming publicized or entering the mainstream which they opposed. Later chapters also touch on different philosophies and rebellious attitudes that overlapped with bohemia, such as hippies, punks, communism and postmodernism. Of course, as with many academic books, there never is a single clear answer to the stated question of who the bohemians were, if only because it changed over time.

For being an academic work, complete with extensive footnotes at the end of chapters, Bohemians: the glamorous outcasts makes for a fairly compelling read, especially since it covers such interesting topics.
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