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Saturday, June 14, 2008

A Cult of Carefree Irresponsibility

If you ask me, every Christopher Hitchens essay is an event. Alcoholic? Yes. Frustrating? Sure. Genius? You betcha. In this week's Vanity Fair, he writes an emboldened plea to save the little patches of Bohemia disappearing in an urban landscape so desperate for another bespoke boutique.
It isn’t possible to quantify the extent to which society and culture are
indebted to Bohemia. In every age in every successful country, it has been
important that at least a small part of the cityscape is not dominated by
bankers, developers, chain stores, generic restaurants, and railway terminals.
This little quarter should instead be the preserve of—in no special
order—insomniacs and restaurants and bars that never close; bibliophiles and the
little stores and stalls that cater to them; alcoholics and addicts and deviants
and the proprietors who understand them; aspirant painters and musicians and the
modest studios that can accommodate them; ladies of easy virtue and the men who
require them; misfits and poets from foreign shores and exiles from remote and
cruel dictatorships. Though it should be no disadvantage to be young in such a
quartier, the atmosphere should not by any means discourage the veteran.
I know the West Village in Chicago is no Greenwhich, but I will always be profoundly influenced by the raw individuality of that urban frontier I called home. Status had not fully arrived yet, and the streets stunk of immigrants and artists. It was a blast. Hitchens is right- urban life without real artists is a mall.

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