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Bohemian New Orleans

The Story of the Outsider and Loujon Press

Jeff Weddle

Publication Year: 2007

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 the Village Voice and the New York Times as one of the best of its day, the Outsider, 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 Orleans traces 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 the Outsider, back issues of the Outsider, 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 Orleans reveals 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 in Publishing History and Beat Scene. Learn about Director Wayne Ewing's documentary film "The Outsiders of New Orleans: Loujon Press" and watch a trailer at http://www.loujonpress.com/

Published by: University Press of Mississippi


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pp. vii-viii

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xiii

Edwin Blair, tall, fit, and balding, a dedicated book collector and longtime New Orleans resident, leaned forward in his chair and considered his words: “This was a romantic couple. This was La Bohème, people giving everything up for art.” Blair was describing his friends, the late Jon Edgar Webb and Webb’s widow, Louise, who sat opposite Blair in the cramped...

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pp. 1-7

The first golden age of little magazine publishing came in the 1920s. Among the important magazines of the era was the Little 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 the Double Dealer set up shop in part to spite...

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Chapter 1. From Cleveland to New Orleans

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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...

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Chapter 2. Four Steps to the Wall and Hollywood Dreams

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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,...

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Chapter 3. Outsiders in New Orleans

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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 ...

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Chapter 4. Creating a Literary Network

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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...

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Chapter 5. The Outsider Flourishes

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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...

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Chapter 6. A Focus on Bukowski

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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...

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Chapter 7. Meeting Bukowski

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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 the Outsider by October, with the Patchen section occupying between forty and fi fty 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...

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Chapter 8. Tucson and Henry Miller

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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...

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Chapter 9. Editor’s Bit and Obit

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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...

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Chapter 10. Death in Nashville

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pp. 151-163

If Insomnia was 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.” Insomnia would consist of a total of 999 copies divided into seven...

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Postscript: What Became of Them

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pp. 164-169

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 the Outsider. 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...

Appendix: Contributors to the Outsider

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pp. 171-180

Source Notes

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pp. 181-202


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pp. 203-207


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pp. 209-220

E-ISBN-13: 9781604731552
E-ISBN-10: 1604731559
Print-ISBN-13: 9781578069743
Print-ISBN-10: 1578069742

Publication Year: 2007