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

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

by Jeff Weddle

University Press of Mississippi, 2007

In Bohemian New Orleans, Jeff Weddle tells the story of Jon Webb, a small press giant who published the ever--idiosyncratic lit mag called The Outsider and books by Charles Bukowski and Henry Miller. But Bohemian New Orleans deals with much more than the history of Loujon Press and its publications. Weddle's in--depth research reveals the story of an ex--convict turned con man trying desperately to pursue an artist's life in New Orleans and various other locales. During this odyssey, Webb crosses paths with the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Sherwood Anderson, Kenneth Patchen, Charles Bukowski, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and even Johnny and June Carter Cash.

John Webb was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. He eventually married, had three kids with his first wife Opal, and became a newspaper reporter. This was before the formation of the Cleveland Newspaper Guild, however, and Webb was barely able to pay the bills. To supplement his income, Webb robbed a jewelry store and was later convicted of armed robbery. While in prison, he began writing and publishing short fiction. After prison, Webb eventually left his alcoholic wife for the love of his life, Louise Madaio, a woman who lived in the same building (and eventually the same apartment) as the Webbs.

Louise and Jon Webb ended up, somewhat surreptitiously, in New Orleans where they were befriended by Big Easy writers and artists. Jon was able to finish a draft of his first and only novel, Four Steps to the Wall, which earned him a publishing contract with the Dial Press. He and Louise then moved to California under hopes that Jon could salvage a poorly--written screenplay by David Goodis that was based on Four Steps. Finally, the Webbs returned to New Orleans where Jon tried to make a living as a writer, and Louise began painting and selling her work to supplement their income.

Though he'd obtained some success as a writer, Webb soon became interested in literary publishing and made plans to start a literary journal called The Outsider. In its short run, The Outsider published work by Russell Edson, Gregory Corso, Diane di Prima, Gary Snyder, Allen Ginsberg, Langston Hughes, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Robert Creeley, Charles Bukowski, Henry Miller, LeRoi Jones, Marvin Bell, William S. Burroughs, Howard Nemerov, Jack Kerouac, Kenneth Patchen, Lary Eigner, Denise Levertov, Thomas Merton, Robert Bly, and Simon Perchik.

Highly praised for their work in fine press printing and publishing by The New York Times and the Village Voice, among others, Jon and Louise risked health and fortune working late into the night as printers, typesetters, promoters and editors to produce not only The Outsider, but four other books under Loujon's imprint (two by Charles Bukowski and two by Henry Miller). Perhaps what is interesting, however, are accounts of Jon Webb's many schemes to keep The Outsider and Loujon Press afloat and Weddle's vivid accounts of the Webbs' contact and correspondence with Kenneth Patchen, Henry Miller, and Charles Bukowski (who moved to New Orleans for an extended period while writing Crucifix in a Deathhand). In Bohemian New Orleans, we see the Webbs, Bukowski, and 1960s New Orleans (perhaps Weddle's most appealing subject) warts and all. This is truly a remarkable book that will appeal to fans of 1960s literati in America and the small presses who published them. Most importantly, however, Bohemian New Orleans serves as an homage to New Orleans itself, and brings to light the story of Jon and Louise Webb, who risked everything for each other and for the love of their art.
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Author:May, Alan
Publication:New Orleans Review
Article Type:Book review
Date:Dec 1, 2007
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