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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Growing up boho, by a thirty-something. Rating: "B+", December 23, 2000
This review is from: Weird Like Us: My Bohemian America (Hardcover)
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Ann Powers, age 36, has led an interesting life so far. She's a nice whitebread Catholic girl from Seattle who took her first acid trip at 16; became a record-store clerk, sexual adventuress & conscientious drug-user in the Bay Area in the 80's; and is now a pop-music journalist and bohemian sellout in New York.

For one who played at the edge of Bohemia in the late 60's, it's fun to read about a more-serious boho of the following generation. Starting with high-school alienation (is there anyone who's gone through adolescence in America in the last 50 years who *didn't * feel alienated?), Powers falls into Bad Company -- indie rock, soft drugs and (mostly) safe sex.

She drops out of college and moves to San Francisco, America's western Capitol of Cool since (at least) the Gilded Age. She makes friends, shares cheap apartments with wildly-assorted roomates, takes lovers, menial jobs and quite a lot of dope. In short, she was growing up and having fun, albeit in a more, umm, colorful milieu than most of us manage. It's good stuff, guaranteed to bring nostalgia for your own misspent youth. I'm thankful to have had a much quieter coming-of-age, but it's fun to read about someone who had a harder go of it.

Finally she gets the Big Break -- a call from the New York Times, asking her to work for them as a pop-music critic! After much agonizing -- not the least about leaving California for New York -- and a push from her boyfriend (now husband), she makes the leap to Upper Bohemia, gets married, buys a house in Brooklyn, and moans & groans about Selling Out. I'd skip over the last pretty lightly, if I were you -- "did I really think I could resist the temptation of moral emptiness, like some Boho Joan of Arc?" etc. I liked it better when Powers muses that she'd have sold out before, but no one was buying....

Powers is most engaging when she's retelling True Stories about herself and her friends. When she drifts off into boho philosophy, I skimmed, and you may want to, too. She does try to put her and her friends'experiences into perspective with the beats, hippies, slackers, etc. Powers takes pop music seriously (it's her livelihood), and the rock-indie-grunge stuff will be more interesting to readers who follow it (not me). "Weird Like Us" is a nice companion piece to David Brooks' "Bobos in Paradise" (or how Bourgeois Bohemians conquered America). Prof. Brooks is more polished, and much funnier, but Ann Powers has walked the walk. Both books are essential reading for those interested in late-20th century American pop-culture.

Happy reading--
Pete Tillman
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