This is such a cool book, I don’t even know where to begin.
So, there’s this couple- John and Louise “Gypsy Lou” Webb. They founded a publishing company called “Loujon Press” in the early 60s which created this magazine called “The Outsider” which was responsible for much of the popularization of the work of Charles Bukowski (I’ll talk about him later).
During the day, Gypsy Lou would sell paintings on street corners, but at night- her and John were setting the type on an outdated 19th century clamshell press for what became Bukowski’s first published collection of works. Each and every page of the 777 copies was hand printed and crafted in their crummy apartment on Royal St. in the Quarter. One of the last pages in this book is an account from John and Louise, discussing the conditions they were working in- how “bugs flew & walked into the running press to be ground up into ink” and “lovemaking rodents scattered alphabets in the typecases” and how the walls caught fire multiple times due to aged wiring. So bohemian. Ultimately, they very much valued the experience,”-we’ve nothing at all to complain about: the experience was unforgettable, one that could not be bought for gold – nor sold to the devil.”
Bukowski was a prolific, underground writer- a cult hero of sorts- whose work was usually an allegorically auto-biographical perception of the depravity the urban and downtrodden in American society. His language was direct and he often made use of violent and sexual imagery. This style and content was seen by some as offensive, others called it a satire on the “machismo attitude”. I think it is merely the result of an artist drawing from his vernacular. This really gave his poetry such a sense of realism and humanity, though, you read it and it speaks like a human, like an old friend. John William Corrington (literary critic) called it “the spoken voice nailed to the paper.” Bukowski’s colloquialism and evasion of standard convention allowed him a flexibility and versatility that few poets had, that is to say no topic was beyond or below his ability- he could really write about anything.
Either way, his “offensive” style and vocabulary led him away from larger companies and into the arms of Loujon Press. This, to me, seemed like a very fortunate happenstance- for both parties.
The copy we have in Special Collections and Archives is signed by Charles Bukowski himself and even includes a thank-you-note written by him to Jon and Louise Webb.
Cool, cool stuff. Shout-out to Trish for showing me this book.
This post was compiled by student worker Dylan J. Tran.
Found in the Archives is a recurring series of crazy cool stuff found in the Monroe Library’s Special Collections & Archives.