Bohemian New Orleans

Bohemian New Orleans: The Story of the Outsider and Loujon Press

JEFF WEDDLE
Copyright Date: 2007
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2tv99f
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    Bohemian New Orleans
    Book Description:

    In 1960, Jon Edgar and Louise "Gypsy Lou" Webb founded Loujon Press on Royal Street in New Orleans's French Quarter. The small publishing house quickly became a giant. Heralded by theVillage Voiceand theNew York Timesas one of the best of its day, theOutsider, the press's literary review, featured, among others, Charles Bukowski, Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Robert Creeley, Denise Levertov, and Walter Lowenfels. Loujon published books by Henry Miller and two early poetry collections by Bukowski.

    Bohemian New Orleanstraces the development of this courageous imprint and examines its place within the small press revolution of the 1960s.

    Drawing on correspondence from many who were published in theOutsider, back issues of theOutsider, contemporary reviews, promotional materials, and interviews, Jeff Weddle shows how the press's mandarin insistence on production quality and its eclectic editorial taste made its work nonpareil among peers in the underground. Throughout,Bohemian New Orleansreveals the messy, complex, and vagabond spirit of a lost literary age.

    Jeff Weddle is assistant professor of library and information studies at the University of Alabama. His work has appeared inPublishing HistoryandBeat Scene.

    Learn about Director Wayne Ewing's documentary film "The Outsiders of New Orleans: Loujon Press" and watch a trailer athttp://www.loujonpress.com/

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-155-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. PREFACE AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-xvi)
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-7)

    The first golden age of little magazine publishing came in the 1920s. Among the important magazines of the era was theLittle Review, which, with its flamboyant editor, Margaret Anderson, emerged from Chicago to engage the world in a dynamic conversation on beauty, art, and social change. In the South, New Orleans’s theDouble Dealerset up shop in part to spite H. L. Mencken for unkind remarks about the region made in his essay “The Sahara of the Bozart.” Along with the satisfaction of spiting Mencken, theDouble Dealer’s editors also had the pleasure of introducing to the world...

  5. 1 FROM CLEVELAND TO NEW ORLEANS
    (pp. 8-21)

    Jon Edgar Webb was born on February 1, 1905, in Cleveland, Ohio, the first child of carpenter and building contractor T. W. Louis Webb and the former Ella Neely. Louis was born in Canada in 1878, the son of English emigrants. Ella was a year younger than her husband and, like her father, hailed from Philadelphia. Her mother was born in Ireland. The Webbs eventually had five children, with the addition of sons Harry, Thomas Louis, and William, and a daughter, Mary. Though blue collar, the Webbs were reasonably well-off. They were land owners, possessing a number of houses and...

  6. 2 FOUR STEPS TO THE WALL AND HOLLYWOOD DREAMS
    (pp. 22-40)

    Antony gave Jon a typewriter and ten dollars, solving the Webbs’ immediate problems. They paid their back rent and bought food to fill their makeshift pantry, a dresser drawer. Jon was able to complete his assignments with the detective magazines and generate income. Even better, Antony gave Louise a job sewing curtains for his interior decorating business. With this, the Webbs had a steady income for a while, until the damp atmosphere of Antony’s store gave Louise respiratory troubles, forcing her to quit. As important as the money itself was that Jon was happy to know someone in town. Now,...

  7. 3 OUTSIDERS IN NEW ORLEANS
    (pp. 41-52)

    After the hard times in New York and California, New Orleans offered a slower, more comfortable way of life. Jon and Louise had friends there and were happy to settle into life in the Big Easy. More than any other city, this was home. It was not without problems, however. Like much of America, New Orleans at midcentury was racially segregated, and the intersection between blacks and whites was often uneasy. In the Quarter, the broad expanse of Canal Street had long been considered neutral ground, with people of color living on one side, whites on the other. Bourbon Street...

  8. 4 CREATING A LITERARY NETWORK
    (pp. 53-71)

    April 29, 1961, was Louise’s forty-fifth birthday. Jon designed and printed a card, declaring his love for “the only human I’ve ever felt really comfortable with, and couldn’t stop loving to save my life.” His one complaint was that their time together passed too quickly. “But how much worse it would be without you … so I dare not complain, sweetest honey darling wife.” Harmony was key, and not just for domestic bliss. The two had an enormous task awaiting them, and a less secure partnership would have cracked under the strain. Jon was eleven years older than Louise, and...

  9. 5 THE OUTSIDER FLOURISHES
    (pp. 72-87)

    Sometime in 1961, poet Kay Johnson, or “Kaja,” her occasional pen name, decided to quit her Ursulines Street apartment and move to Paris. Johnson was a longtime friend of the Webbs’, and her move was lucky for them, as they now planned to move into her apartment, with its solid cement floor, a good foundation for their press. The apartment’s most charming feature was a patio with banana and fig trees and a mimosa, which, in May, “explodes like fragrant cottony moonlight all over the place.” The patio held a chair and picnic table, and Johnson loved to sit outside...

  10. 6 A FOCUS ON BUKOWSKI
    (pp. 88-105)

    Bukowski’s first knowledge of the Outsider of the Year award came in mid-September 1962, and it was an honor like nothing he had ever known. Never one to hide his emotions in his letters, Bukowski apparently had been giving in to his darker impulses in correspondence with Jon. Things seem to have come to a head with Jon’s receipt of a “special delivery” of some sort from Bukowski, which made Jon believe that Bukowski was seriously considering suicide. Attempting to help, Jon told Bukowski that suicide “would be pretty stupid.” Jon admitted that he had also contemplated suicide, attributing this...

  11. 7 MEETING BUKOWSKI
    (pp. 106-121)

    The Webbs kept an eye toward their next project, whatever it might be. Jon hoped to be printing the fourth issue of theOutsiderby October, with the Patchen section occupying between forty and fifty pages. Even better, Patchen had given his blessing for a Loujon Press book of his work. There were basically two ways to go with a Patchen book. It could either be a fairly standard text, not much different fromIt Catches My Heart in Its Hands, or it could be a far more ambitious collection of painting poems, a form that Patchen had made his...

  12. 8 TUCSON AND HENRY MILLER
    (pp. 122-136)

    The Webbs arrived in Tucson during what Jon described as “the worst rainy December in history here” and made a down payment on a small former grocery store at 1009 E. Elm Street, where they set up housekeeping. Jon did not tolerate the warm, rainy weather well. He wrote Blair that he was “just up from bed briefly—recovering from what Dr. said was going into pneumonia.” Jon complained of a backache, the result of overextending himself in fixing up their new home. One unlikely problem came when rain caused an old cesspool under the patio to cave in, producing...

  13. 9 EDITOR’S BIT AND OBIT
    (pp. 137-150)

    Loujon’s finances got a boost in August 1968, with a thousand-dollar grant from the New Orleans-based Fidelis Foundation, an organization chaired by Blair’s friend William Wisdom. The foundation praised the press’s innovations in all areas of the book arts, including typography, format, and design. Soon after, another thousand-dollar grant came through, this one from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines. The money surely came in handy as the Webbs continued with their brutal production schedule for the newOutsider.

    Jon took the night shift and Louise took the day; they rarely saw one...

  14. 10 DEATH IN NASHVILLE
    (pp. 151-163)

    IfInsomniawas going to make the kind of money Jon hoped it would, he knew it would have to be well promoted. Loujon announced this latest publication with a lavish, detailed broadside, which described “this most monumental production yet to be designed, handcrafted and published by Loujon Press.”Insomniawould consist of a total of 999 copies divided into seven “deluxe editions.” The main attraction was a portfolio of Miller’s watercolors. Along with the paintings came an introductory book “candidly detailing the courting by ‘this reputedly famous old man’ (his words) of Hoki Hioko Tokuda, the young Japanese singer...

  15. POSTSCRIPT: WHAT BECAME OF THEM
    (pp. 164-170)

    In 1994, Louise participated in another tribute to the Loujon Press, helping with the production of two fine art prints designed from original printing blocks from theOutsider. Commissioned by Ed Blair, they were printed by New Orleans printmaker Francis Swaggart from blocks Blair “retrieved from a damp French Quarter attic.” Blair did not see Louise for four or five years after Jon’s death, but his friendship with her never wavered, and he never lost his admiration for the romance of Jon and Louise’s life together.

    Through the years Blair was always a rock for Louise to rely on. He...

  16. APPENDIX: CONTRIBUTORS TO THE OUTSIDER
    (pp. 171-180)
  17. SOURCE NOTES
    (pp. 181-202)
  18. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 203-208)
  19. INDEX
    (pp. 209-220)