Buying In: The Secret Dialogue Between What We Buy and Who We Are, by Rob Walker
Weird Like Us: My Bohemian America, by Ann Powers
Toward the end, these mostly different books came to feel like they were saying the same things. There's more than one way to create an identity, an unconventional identity, an adulthood. If you're a grown up, "selling out" is difficult to define. If you want to live a conscientious life, you have to chart the course yourself, and it's best not to let your guard down more than a little. Those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.
Powers' book was written about ten years before Walker's, and that is most evident in the different discussions of success and selling out in alternative youth culture. Walker gives us the impression that many young aspiring artists and musicians of today would be just plain puzzled by, say, R.E.M.'s refusal to have its music used in commercials. However, my significant other's dispatches from the college course he teaches in music subcultures would suggest otherwise. Teenage punks, at least, still get worked up over old-fashioned concepts like "authenticity."
I also got a kick out of the way Powers divided her chapters: friends, roommates/crazy living situations, sex, drugs, thrifts stores/dumpster diving/curb finds, poorly paid jobs, youth itself. Indeed, all are staples of a certain kind of lifestyle, one I never fully lived but have been within sight of since high school.
In related news, I will be 30 this year.