“Everlasting Realities of the Bohemian Lifestyle”

1998drawing
[Early New York drawings, 1998]

I found this great 2013 article in The Atlantic, “Everlasting Realities of the Bohemian Lifestyle”, where Garance Franke-Ruta writes about the myth of a once-affordable New York Bohemia.

Basically, Garance says that a time when a New York bohemain lifestyle was safe, well-paid, pleasant and sustainable never actually existed, and those harking back to some lost, golden area are deluding themselves.

And as she argues well, it isn’t just New York; bohemian life was always pretty perilous. This paragraph in particular is a doozie:

Years later I went to college with several of the N+1 founders. Perhaps we simply studied different things, but I do not recall any promises of the fantasy world they posit as an ideal in their article, where you can be bourgeois and artistic and bohemian and have no inherited money and no involvement with a boring straight job all at the same time, and the whole thing is a reliable enterprise in which everyone succeeds financially, and manages to change the world in some fundamental fashion on top of that, while still giving their children a comfortable life. Their complaints are far larger than one about the New York housing market, or the academy, as well — they are about the relation of the intellectual and the artist to society, about the lack of recognition except by “the Happy Few.” But the art and literary worlds have always been a total crap shoot, and far too many artists and writers reach old age as impoverished and unknown as when they began. There is nothing new in the failure of that dare. Even those who have one wonderful glorious moment of fame and fortune are rarely set, because a moment is not a life, and life is longer than most forms of renown these days.

Personally, when I think of “Bohemia”, I think of a world that lives mostly in [A.] the impressionable minds of young people still in college, dreaming of what they want to do once they graduate and [B.] in the minds of sad, nostalgic old folks, dreaming of lost, younger days.

i.e. Same as it ever was. In the world of actually getting meaningful stuff done, it’s mostly an irrelevant distraction.