Essay on Book Review

Submitted By lilgirlsrule
Words: 822
Pages: 4

Author(s): Marc Robinson
Review by: Marc Robinson
Source: Performing Arts Journal, Vol. 10, No. 3 (1987), pp. 118-119
Published by: Performing Arts Journal, Inc.
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Accessed: 26-02-2015 01:38 UTC

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Marc Robinson

Bohemian Paris: Culture, Politics, and the Boundaries of Bourgeois Life,
Jerrold Seigel
Penguin Books; 453 pp.; $9.95 (paper)
France Fin de Siecle
Eugen Weber
HarvardUniversity Press; 294 pp.; $20.00 (cloth)
"Ittakes so much money to be a Bohemian today," wrote novelist Maurice
Barres in 1888. Jerrold Seigel's similar sensitivity to Bohemia's contradictions generates his provocative analysis of the relationship between alternative and mainstream societies. By following several artists' quests for widespread social acceptance, as well as exposing the bourgeois logic beneath the Bohemian equation of lifestyle with art, Seigel shows how
Bohemia embraced a society it outwardly rejected. He also demonstrates the bourgeoisie's fascination with a subculture it deemed vulgar, suggesting that the mainstream used Bohemia as a place to vicariously transgress social conventions.
The cabaret, a central Bohemian icon with the ability to draw its membership from both worlds, comes under especially rigorous critique: while it originally symbolized Bohemia's independence from official culture, it became a place of unabashed careerism and the dissolution of artists' talent in the easier arts of idleness, drinking, and scene-making. Seigel is especially resourceful in spotting opposition to aspects of Bohemia from within its own ranks, describing both Baudelaire's rejection of Bohemia for

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the more productive intoxication of sustained creative work and Rimbaud's attack on its romanticism. Seigel's own analysis of how Bohemia broke down once it moved into politics is also on target. The failure of the Paris
Commune, he argues, demonstrated that Bohemia couldn't overcome the disorganization produced by its myriad egoistic forces and construct a solid revolutionary movement.
These discussions, as well as generous chapters on Courbet, Murger,the
Goncourts, Verlaine, Jarry, Apollinaire, and many less well-known figures, compose a penetrating work of history-bringing the anxiety, duplicity, and disillusionment of Bohemia out from behind its mask of insouciance.

Eugen Weber's study is better read in conjunction with a book like Bohemian Paris than on its own. While Weber deliberately restricts himself to
"surface phenomena" and quotes