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Miss Hahn accompanied a nephew to Greenwich Village in 1964 and sadly observed what Village residents have known for a long time--the Bohemians had deserted their old home town and the streets were filled with a public herd taking their post-adolescence very hard. Bohemians are defined as flamboyant social, political and artistic rebels and the author decided to go looking for them. Probably on the theory that she wouldn't find out where they'd gone unless she knew where they'd been, Miss Hahn condenses the history of various Bohemian settlements in this country from the mid-19th century in New York, Greenwich Village in its better days, Chicago, New Mexico, San Francisco and the briefest look at Provincetown. The author has always been best at popular history and personal essays and this book combines both because, as the record reaches the '30's and the evidence becomes more scattered, she shares some personal memories and interviewed some survivors of more self-consciously Bohemian times. Nevertheless, she never does catch up to them, probably because she avoided beating the university bushes, which would have undoubtedly turned up an interesting, subsidized crew of the cracked and/or creative. Kerouac and Ginsberg get a light going over, and the best work is on the legendary names of the departed Bohemias. It's a consistently entertaining and informative book.

Pub Date: Jan. 23rd, 1966
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin