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March 16, 2009

Terry Southern

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Terry Southern photographed by Stanley Kubrick

Christy Rogers writes an appreciation of the brilliant American satirist Terry Southern, best known for "Dr. Strangelove" (co-written with Stanley Kubrick) and "Candy" (which Southern co-wrote with Mason Hoffenberg).

In a posting I wrote about co-creating a trash novel with The Wife, I passed along a lot of my own reflections about Terry Southern. Southern, who died in 1995, is one of my art-heroes.

This conjunction of Terry Southern, satire, and co-creating may just be a fluke -- but, on the other hand, when The Wife and I co-wrote and co-produced a ribald audiobook last year, Terry Southern was definitely an influence and an inspiration. Total coincidence?

Christy Rogers link found thanks to ALD. Buy yourself an Arts and Letters Daily t-shirt here. Here's the Terry Southern website. I found the 1963 photo above here, where M. Bromberg has posted a very on-target and evocative appreciation of Southern's writing.

If you're curious about our audiobook -- a funny and raunchy Hollywood satire, full of wildass storylines and far-out performances by gifted actors -- shoot me an email at michaelblowhard at gmail. I'll send you a link to the website that we made for the audiobook, where you can learn a bit about it, enjoy a small audio sampler, and maybe hit a "Buy Now" button. The Wife and I will probably never create anything so ambitious again.

My Question for the Day is a variant on many of my rants about the entrenched academic / bookchat / lit-fict thing: Why aren't more of Terry Southern's books taught in contempo lit classes? Why isn't more made of his writing by critics? And why aren't potentially turned-on kids introduced to his work as a regular part of a literary education? My hunch: It's because Southern's books were hilarious, often dirty, showbizzy, accessible, and entertaining. Funny, rowdy, easy-to-read, and recent ... Something about that combo rubs many readin'-and-writin' authorities the wrong way. Too bad.



posted by Michael at March 16, 2009


TS isn't taught because he comes from the pre-feminized pre-PC era of sixties wild ass writing. Imagine the reaction of the offended to some of the stuff that I read, utterly gobsmacked, when I was, oh, thirteen or so:

1. The mind of Derek the hunchback, with its cataracts of eels, and the hump of Derek the hunchback, as in "Give me your hump!"

2. Candy's father imagining his daughter opening every orifice--and I mean every orifice!--in her quivering virginal body to an ever devolving list of partners, from white men down to negroes down to animals, ending up with tiny insects humping the pupils of her eyes. Like I said, every orifice!

3. The Jewish doctor rogering Candy's Kate Hepburn-like mother (at least that's how I pictured her) and shouting, "Christ was a Jew!" at the moment of climax.

4. The end of Candy, where our erstwhile heroine gets double-penetrated, from the rear by the nose of a giant statue of the Buddha, and from the front by someone she only too belatedly recognizes. That her cry of recognition is by no means a cry of revulsion or even of refusal to continue receiving her ventral lover's ministrations only makes the scandal worse. I mean, c'mon:

Candy, getting into it, Buddha nose from behind, filthy but very holy man from the front, Candy crying out in recognition:


You would never get away with that today. Not unless you tunnelled inside some subculture. Candy was actually mainstream!

Ah, those were the horny perverted days, weren't they?

P.S. Unless I'm remembering a different book, that is. I also read The Happy Hooker around that time, so maybe all that stuff happened to Xaviera Hollander.

Posted by: PatrickH on March 17, 2009 10:12 AM

Good bio on Southern here...

Posted by: Charlton Griffin on March 17, 2009 12:10 PM

You couldn't teach him in high schools, pre- or post-PC area, due to the sometimes raunchy language and subject matter. As a former high school teacher, I know how difficult it is to get permission to teach authors like Carver, so Southern would be impossible.

In college, however, he's pretty widely read by students and professors. One of my profs both knew him personally and taught his work in a class on Literary Satire (which was a fantastic class, btw).

Posted by: JV on March 17, 2009 4:35 PM

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