Bobos in Exile

William Powers and Martha Sherrill

Bobos in Exile

William Powers and Martha Sherrill

Bobos in Exile
An email conversation about the news of the day.
June 6 2000 12:20 PM

William Powers and Martha Sherrill

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Dear M,

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We missed you this morning. Gray awful rain in Washington, so first thing, we put The Wizard of Oz soundtrack on really loud and sang along while I fried eggs. "Come out, come out, wherever you are, and meet the young lady who fell from a star!" Cheered us right up. That CD has several outtakes that weren't in the movie, and I made the mistake of mentioning this. Explaining outtakes to a 2-year-old drops you into a horrible logic maze, especially when the 2-year-old hasn't been allowed to see the movie.

"But why those songs are cut from that movie?" They were bad songs. "Why they sing them now?" They've gotten better over the years. "Why?" In desperation, I finally concocted a fictional rule: Songs are cut from a movie when nobody wants to whistle them afterward. "Oh." Eat your eggs.

No, I did not know about your New Yorker-on-the-airplane rule, but it's a lot like that old maternal warning about good underwear and car accidents, isn't it? The New Yorker is your socially acceptable underwear. It's a bit strange, dear, but everything about you and airplanes is strange. We'll have that little talk again when you return, the one about plane crash statistics.

Let's go back to Boboism, which you raised yesterday in connection with Moby Dick. I haven't read David Brooks' book, Bobos in Paradise, yet, but I've absorbed the core idea through cultural osmosis, and I read one or two of the pieces he did along the way. One was a hilarious anthropology of the people who commute into D.C. on the red line, down the elite Bethesda-Cleveland Park corridor. Of course we're Bobos! We live on that corridor. Practically everyone we know is a Bobo. Even those hard-working immigrant women who take care of kids in our neighborhood--their dream is the good life they see all around them--i.e., Boboism.

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I wonder if Brooks notes that Boboism is a global phenomenon. That town where we lived in Japan this winter, Kamakura, was a hotbed of Bobos. Remember that fancy market down the street, Kinokuniya, where we shopped on the rare days when we were feeling flush? The place made Dean & DeLuca look like a dump, aisles clogged with Japanese people who seemed to have bought their entire wardrobes from the Sundance catalog, paying the equivalent of 100 bucks for that evening's bottle of wine. (We never did figure out how they all apparently managed to escape the horrendous Japanese recession.)

It will be fun now to watch the counter-Bobo movement. People yearning for that feeling of specialness you described yesterday will flock to products and styles that seem un-Bobo. Internet millionaires will move to the Deep South and get really into the Daytona 500. Maybe they already are. I'll e-mail one and get back to you.

We've talked about Lucinda Williams. She's the one who does the gorgeous duet with Jimmie Dale Gilmore on his CD Spinning Around the Sun, one of my all-time favorites. I'll read the Buford today. Back now to Lazio and Hillary.

Tell more about Denver, where I've never been.

BP

William Powers writes a weekly column on the media for National Journal magazine. Martha Sherrill is a former staff writer for the Washington Post, a contributing editor at Esquire, and the author of The Buddha from Brooklyn (click here to buy it).