I’ve got Bruce Sterling on the Brain …

I’ve got Bruce Sterling on the Brain — here’s some big excerpts from CATSCAN 12: “Return to the Rue Jules Verne”

These are the people who invented “la vie de Boheme.” They invented the lifestyle of the urban middle-class dropout art-gypsy. They invented its terminology and its tactics. They brought us the “succes de scandale,” the now time-honored tactic of shocking one’s audience all the way to the bank. And the “succes d’estime,” the edgy and hazardous life of the critics’ darling. The doctrine of art for art’s sake was theirs too (thank you, Theophile Gautier). And the ever-helpful notion of epater les bourgeoisie, an act of consummately modern rebellion which is nevertheless impossible without a bourgeoisie to epater, an act which the bourgeoisie itself has lavishly financed for decades in our culture’s premiere example of Aldissian enantiodromia — the transformation of things into their opposites.

The Paris Bohemians were the first genuine industrial-scale counterculture. This was the culture that created Jules Verne. It deserves a great deal of the credit or blame for origination of the genres of horror, fantasy, and science fiction. It has a legitimate claim on our attention and our loyalties.

Professor Seigel’s book is especially useful for its thumbnail summary of what might be called the Ten Warning Signs of Bohemianism. According to Seigel, these are:
1. Odd dress.
2. Long hair.
3. Living for the moment.
4. Sexual freedom.
5. Having no stable residence.
6. Radical political enthusiasms.
7. Drink.
8. Drugs.
9. Irregular work patterns.
10. Addiction to nightlife.

In reality, these Ten Warning Signs are every bit as old as industrial society. Slackers, punks, hippies, beatniks, hepcats, Dead End kids, flappers, jazz babies, fin-de-siecle aesthetes, pre-Raphaelites, Bohemians — this stuff is old. People were living a vividly countercultural life in Bohemian Paris when the house in which I’m writing these words was a stomping ground for enormous herds of bison.

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