Saturday, June 19, 2004

Bohemian Life

I was disappointed in the nonfiction book AMONG THE BOHEMIANS by Virginia Nicholson. She's the great-niece of Virginia Woolf. The book had an interesting premise: How artists and writers fought to free themselves from the extreme confines of the Victorian Era by adopting a Bohemian lifestyle, and how modern life has been influenced by the early 20th century Bohemians.

Nicholson arranges the chapters thematically: sex, food, children, housekeeping, etc. and illustrates these themes with examples from some famous literary and artistic (and some not as famous, but usually running in the same circle) lives. Because she uses so many examples and it's the same people, some of the chapters feel repetitive and claustrophobic. In spite of that, I sympathize with Nicholson's fervor to throw it all in. She's coming at this project as a sort of "literary anthropologist", if such a term can be allowed.

AMONG THE BOHEMIANS is not the great read I expected it to be, but I did learn more about the practices, morals, and mores of the Victorian Era, and much about the homely details of day to day existence during that time. In addition, I learned about many Bohemians that are just fringe-famous, but often fascinating in their own right. This would be an interesting book to throw in if someone was teaching (or taking) a literature course on Bloomsbury.

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