Reed, John Shelton. “Dixie Bohemia: A French Quarter Circle in the 1920s (Walter Lynwood Fleming Lectures in Southern History)”, LSU Press, 2012.
Saints and Sinners
After World War I, New Orleans and its French Quarter was the place where artists and writers came too. Rent was cheap and the life in the quarter was Bohemian at a time when few places were. William Faulkner was one of the first to arrive and established a group of friends that included Sherwood Anderson and others. This is the story of an amazing group of people who lived and loved together and formed a community during the 1920s and influenced the theater and literature. There were writers, artists, jewelers, actors and journalists. They became important to the preservation of the area, and its eventual designation as a historic district. We have been aware for years of who these people were but we did not have any of the details nor did we know what happened to most of them later. Reed has done his research well and tells us not just of the group but of the individuals who formed it and were its membership. They ignored Prohibition and helped to bring out many New Orleans institutions among which were Le Petit Theatre and “The Double Dealer” literary magazine. Interesting enough this was a “white only” community and were not concerned with the plight of the black man in the same city where they lived. But this world was one that ended as quickly as it began.
Having been born and raised in New Orleans, I succumbed to the world of the French Quarter and like so many others could not wait until I was “big enough” to become a resident of the area and get into the intellectual environment I had heard so much about when I was growing up. Alas, when I finally could get to do so, the intellectualism was gone and the Quarter became a party town (which was also great fun).
The French Quarter has always been popular as a place for artists, writers, and eccentrics, “with anecdotal tidbits from earlier bohemias, but no one has, until now, given us a more concise and comprehensive picture of the mix of demimonde and haute culture of the 1920s circle that included William Faulkner and Sherwood Anderson” Reed brings it all back to life and this is just a wonderful read.