Quiet Days in Clichy
by Henry Miller
Olympia Press 1956 edition. Miller’s racy novel about bohemians in Paris and was illustrated by photographs from Brassaï.
The term Bohemian is somewhat vague and often misused. It refers to living an alternative lifestyle that is usually artistic. Writers, musicians, actors and artists have traditionally made up this untraditional group. Numerous Bohemian communities have existed around the world and attracted creative types looking to devote time to their passion rather than the 9-to-5 lifestyle of average Joes.
New York’s Greenwich Village, London’s Soho and Chelsea, and Paris’ Montmartre and Montparnasse are just some of the famous ‘Boho’ districts. There have been periods of time when it was possible to visit Greenwich or Soho and see budding writers scribbling in every cafe. An anthropologist would describe Bohemianism as a subculture.
Naturally many famous literary names have lived a Bohemian life or moved lock, stock and barrel to a Bohemian community. Think of the Americans (Ralph Waldo Emerson, Mark Twain, Henry James, Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Edith Wharton etc) who have journeyed to Paris because it was THE place to be creative.
The list of so-called Bohemian writers is lengthy – Oscar Wilde, Henry Miller, Robert Service etc – but the subject of the Bohemian lifestyle has been extensively written about in both fact and fiction. Lots of readers are interested in Bohemianism but don’t necessarily want to be Bohemians.
There have been many novels where people have moved to Bohemian communities, endured culture shock and succeeded or failed, and many more featuring a Bohemian-style romance as free love and sexual experimentation have always been important aspects.
This selection of books contains Bohemian-themed plots, books written by uber-Bohemians like Miller and non-fiction about the lifestyle itself. Many of our choices are vintage editions and we have not strayed into the Beat Generation or the Counterculture writing of the 1960s even though both of these subgenres are linked to Bohemianism.
It’s interesting to note that even today there are still books attempting to define or refine this subculture. Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There by David Brooks introduced the term ‘Bourgeois Bohemians’ for wealthy folks who adopt the creative, alternative lifestyle. Bohemian Manifesto: A Field Guide to Living on the Edge by Laren Stover attempts define the various sub-groups.
A Moveable Feast
by Ernest Hemingway
Hemingway’s famous account of his life in Paris - Crowley, Pound, Fitzgerald, Madox Ford, Belloc, Joyce and more.
The Amateur Bohemian
by H.M. Clamp
1930 romance novel from this rather prolific author of romantic books during this period.
The Woman Gives
by Owen Johnson
A 1916 romance set in Bohemian Greenwich village. Illustrated by Howard Chandler Christy.
by A.F. Tschiffely
A 1950 memoir about a bohemian’s travels, including visits to Mexico, Texas, Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego.
by Anne Parrish
1928 novel about a young female writer who goes to Bohemian New York. Joan Fontaine, Robert Ryan starred in the movie version, Born to be Bad.
The Impossible Boy
by Nina Wilcox Putnam
1913 novel set in a Bohemian city based on Greenwich Village, involving a young painter, his bear and a girl. Arthur Keller illustrations.
by George du Maurier
Du Maurier was an illustrator who turned to fiction. Trilby tells the story an artist and his model in Paris
Touch and Go
by Ralph Cheyney
1926 debut book of poetry from Cheyney who moved in Bohemian circles. Blurbs include Robert Frost and illustrations by Herbert E. Fouts
by Dolf Wyllarde
1933 romance novel about a failing marriage – the wife becomes a cruise ship nurse and the husband becomes a Bohemian author.
Gold by Gold
by Herbert S Gorman
1925 novel about a minor poet novel who abandons his wife for the bohemian life in New York.
New York Nights
by Alexander E. Louhi
Published by Humanity Press in 1941, two young people go to New York for fame, fortune, and the Bohemian lifestyle.
by Norman Matson
Scarce 1926 fantasy novel set in Bohemian Paris about an American art student in Paris and a magic ring.
Ballads of a Bohemian
by Robert W Service
Barse & Hopkins’ 1921 edition of this famous book of verse about Bohemian Paris in the early 1920s.
An Indiscreet Guide to Soho
by Stanley Jackson
Undated, circa 1940/1950s. A vivid account of London’s and the places to visit for anyone looking for an alternative lifestyle.
The Moulin Rouge
by Jacques Pessis
A history of this Paris institution from 1889 to the modern era.
Greenwich Village Today & Yesterday
by Berenice Abbott & Henry W. Lanier
Photos by Abbott, text by Lanier. 1949 book filled with 70 photographs showing a vastly different city than today.
Bohemia in London
by Arthur Ransome
Published in 1907, this is Ransome’s first major work as he describes the capital’s Bohemian areas - Soho, Chelsea, Hampstead etc