Mstation Book Reviews
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Tue, 03 Jun 2008

Bohemia visited?

Herbert Gold, Bohemia: Where Art, Angst, Love
and Strong Coffee Meet, Axios

Is this really Bohemia? Or is it a rather dreary sub-set of semi-seedy post-hippies who while setting their sights on macro-thought, rarely get farther than me, me, me? It is in parts, and there are lots of pre-hippies as well.

The author has been around some, starting off in Ohio and then setting up base in San Francisco and travelling far and wide seemingly the whole time. He was in San Francisco for the beatnik thing and, of course, for the hippies. He was in Paris when it was important, Israel during the Six Day Wzr, and many other places besides.

We gather people and anecdotes along the way - snippets of lives lived on the move. In the Paris of the past we meet some famous figures including Genet, Burroughs, and Picasso (a flash) ... whatever happened to Paris? And now you can't even smoke in cafes there.

Gold himself makes some nice observations along the way and involves us in some pleasantly convoluted examples of French philosopher speak. His tone is generally non-judgemental (as you'd expect) and his spread is inclusive in that anyone who's a bit different might well be included - particularly if they had made a name for themselves and particularly if they're a writer of some sort.

You could use the book as a kind of guidebook, particularly of the US, as all sorts of areas get a mention - no surprise at all that most are in California.

Hmm, Henry Robbins of Black Flag? Rollins, we think.

In a way, the whole thing is like postcards from an ethereal edge that can't quite be seen, and which if you focus on too closely, you can't see.

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