Weird Like Us: My Bohemian America Paperback – Apr 26 2001
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In a thoughtful mixture of autobiography, journalism, and cultural criticism, Ann Powers examines how "bohemian" culture--which many consider dead and buried--has seeped into the American mainstream. While writing extensively about her own trajectory from communal living and a dead-end record-store job in San Francisco to cohabital bliss and a staff position as a rock critic for The New York Times, Powers also takes great care to include the perspectives of her peers, even when their impressions clash violently with her own. In doing so, she turns Weird Like Us into a frontline analysis of how the members of (dare we say it?) Generation X try to find significance and purpose in their lives.
"It's hard to shock most Americans," Powers notes in a chapter on the shifts in sexual politics and culture. "But it's hard to engage them, too." Weird Like Us shows how this applies to many other aspects of social life besides sex: experimentation and variance have become increasingly normal in everything from drug use to pop-music styles, but with little or no conscious reflection on their consequences. Without that self-awareness, "alternative culture" risks becoming nothing more than an empty pose. "For too long we have united only within a culture of rebellion. What we need to refuse is the negativity that comes from always defining ourselves against a society we can't help but live within." For Powers, acknowledging and accepting one's position within mainstream culture isn't an act of "selling out," but an opportunity to act, in an individual capacity, as an agent for social change, an example of a good life worth living. Weird Like Us demonstrates that you don't have to be a cultural conservative to believe in "values," and Powers's emphasis on integrity, respect, and self-consciousness adds a new and inspiring voice to progressive cultural criticism. --Ron Hogan --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Coined to characterize Parisian cafe denizens in the 1830s, the term "bohemian" now refers somewhat vaguely to a lifestyle or attitude that lies outside the mainstream. An acclaimed pop critic for the New York Times, Powers (co-editor, Rock She Wrote) attempts to get inside the soul of modern-day bohemia but ends up muddling its definition even more. Approaching her subject with a mix of techniques, she interviews sex workers, porn purveyors and others among her former roommates; reminisces nostalgically about San Francisco group houses in the 1980s; and, least compellingly, attempts to reveal the glory of today's bohemians in a cultural exploration limited mostly to her own experiences and those of her friends. In the journalistic passages, Powers displays her fine skills and allows her interviewees to shine. When she switches to memoir, the result is mildly engaging, although it flounders when she starts offering such details as who in the household did dishes most often. Yet even a digression about a great chair she once pulled from the trash is better honed than her messy forays into cultural theory, which are full of contradictions and unsubstantiated, sweeping statements. Bohemia is "disgustingly dead," she declares at the outset, then opines at the book's conclusion that it may be within all of us. Powers's "bohemian America" is more a clubhouse for an elite fringe than a country-within-a-country. Those hoping to find true insight into alternative culture should look elsewhere. Agent, Sarah Lazin. (Feb.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Inside This Book(Learn More)
IN 1984, a twenty-year-old punkette with two-toned hair and a plastic raincoat boarded an American Airlines jet and left home, in search of a fantasy that she wanted to make into a life. Read the first page
Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
In fact, as long as Powers is telling stories about her life, she's a decent writer. But she's too insecure to let her stories speak for themselves. She frames the stories with painfully clumsy, forced Presidential-speech oratory about How Bohemia Can Make Our America Stronger. Clinton himself would gag at the rancid treacle Powers pours on her perfectly good, sufficient memoir.
It's a striking example of one of the great paradoxes of contemporary history: Americans, who see themselves as pragmatic, anti-ideological folk, are in fact the most ideologically oppressed and oppressive nation in the world, unable to talk about anything at all without descending to utterly meaningless sloganeering.
Most recent customer reviews
An odd book, but am enjoying the thoughts of people in a generation younger than me.Published 3 months ago by Cynthia Anderson
This book in a few words: Everything changes except the avant-garde. Well-written but very navel-gazey and self-absorbed. Read morePublished on Sept. 28 2003 by Amazon Customer
I didn't grow up in the sixties or seventies that is predominantly talked about in this book. I have, however, heard much about it since it is such an impact on our society today. Read morePublished on Feb. 11 2002 by Alan Y. Chen
The people who dismiss this as a personal memoir about the author's life seem not to have really read the book. Read morePublished on Jan. 25 2002
Former New York Times writer Ann Powers' memoirs are a clutsy, misinformed attempt at defining a generation best known for its piercings. Read morePublished on Nov. 11 2001
Before you find yourself swayed by the words of the past reviewers who seemed to have recieved a narcissistic orgasm out of slamming the hell out of this book, I suggest you go to... Read morePublished on Aug. 6 2001 by william a. willey
I purchased this book after reading a glowing review of it in "Mother Jones", as well as being a fan of Ms. Powers music reviews in the New York Times. Read morePublished on Sept. 8 2000 by brjoro
I remember when this book came out and Ms. Power's employer, the New York Times, gave it two (not one but two) glowing reviews and their rating "And Bear in Mind"... Read morePublished on Aug. 27 2000