Through this whole trip, I’ve been reading David Brooks’ nonfiction book Bobos in Paradise, which is a spot-on description of, basically, myself and everybody that I know. The book is about ‘bourgeois bohemianism,’ which Brooks describes as the attempt by the modern upper-middle-class to meld their bohemian ideals with their bourgeois lifestyles.
Really resonated with me. I certainly idealize bohemianism. I believe in freedom and questioning authority and being your own master and not living according to any norms except for those that you’ve created yourself. But, at the same time, my life is and has been extremely bourgeois. I went to prep school. I went to two elite colleges. I have a master’s degree in creative writing (what could be more bourgeois that professionalizing the arts?), and I’ve just entered into a financial and creative partnership with a massive media conglomerate. None of that exactly screams out ‘Beatnik.’
Nor do I live in a particularly outrageous manner. I don’t drink or smoke or engage in crazy sexual escapades. I eat right, wake up in the morning, try to get eight hours of sleep, and sit down at my computer every day to do work.
I think of myself as an outsider, but I’m really not. Everything I do is pretty culturally acceptable. For instance, there’s a feeling amongst writers that what we do is somehow not-very-respected by the outside world. But I don’t think that’s an accurate read on our social role. In fact, mostly people seem to quite awed and impressed when they learn that I’m a writer.
In order to be truly countercultural, a pursuit needs to be low-status. For instance, I’d say that writing fan-fiction is countercultural. Of course, the problem with rejecting mainstream culture is that it means you get ignored by it.