The Daily

Terry Southern Month

The End of Terry Southern Month

June 30, 2010 | by

As we come to the end of Terry Southern Month—and our first month in operation—I wish to thank all of you who wrote in, whether on the comments page or privately, to say how much you love Southern's work. We had no idea how many other fans were out there. This has been one of those gratifying lessons that only the web can teach.

Thanks also—equally—to those who hate the stuff, and piped up. We are not in the criticism business at The Paris Review. But we believe in it. Here we differ with our friends at The Believer: we like snark, when it comes from the gut. It may not be the lifeblood of the arts, but a healthy organism also needs bile, not to mention a gag reflex.

You haters are going to hate this last piece. We make no apologies for it, but—at the risk of going off the reservation, into lit crit mode—we would like to point out that it makes the author queasy, too. (Even his anti-hero, "Art," knows enough to be ashamed. Get it, Art?)

Furthermore, we'd like to observe that this is typical of Southern's work. His comedy depends on moral ambivalence. He may be turned on by bad behavior—if it weren't a turn-on, it wouldn't be bad. Or at least, no one would engage in it. But he knows it for what it is. In a story like the following, he'll sacrifice good taste, comfort, even laughs for the sake of a truth "too ... er, uh, gross for a general readership."

We trust you are not that. Read More »


My Lunch With Terry Southern

June 22, 2010 | by

Photograph by Pud Gadiot

As most editors eventually learn to their chagrin, encounters with one’s literary heroes usually end up as disappointing and deflating experiences. But in the early eighties, I had a lunch with the great Terry Southern that was sheer perfection on every level.

As a sixties adolescent of the standard issue sort I had my psyche and to some extent my erotic imagination comandeered by Southern. There was Candy, of course, one of the great dirty books (or “dbs,” as Terry called them) of our time. Oh, how my idiot friends and I enjoyed repeating lines like “Give me your hump!” and “When I was in Italy, I got so much hot Italian cock that I stopped menstruating and started minestroneing.” into the ambient Brooklyn air at an inappropriately loud volume. But even better, to me, was The Magic Christian, wherein the multimillionaire prankster Guy Grand oh so grandly and ingeniously sends up the stupid adult world in ways I could only dream about. I must have read it in its Bantam paperback edition a dozen times. And mirabile dictu, when I became an editor at Penguin in the early eighties, I discovered that both of these books were out of print (wtf?) and was able to repay Terry Southern the favor by arranging to reissue them in trade paperback. Read More »


Grand Guy Grand

June 18, 2010 | by

Photograph by Pud Gadiot

In the Spring 1959 issue, readers were introduced to "grand Guy Grand," a billionaire trickster who sows confusion wherever he goes. The story was adapted from Terry Southern's novel The Magic Christian, published later that year. In the late sixties the novel was made into a movie starring Peter Sellers, and it continues (on the evidence of Monday's paper) to cast its nefarious spell on impressionable young minds.

When not tending New York holdings, Guy Grand was generally, as he expressed it, “on the go.” He took cross-country trips by train: New York to Miami, Miami to Seattle—that sort of thing—always on a slow train, one that makes frequent stops. Accommodation on these trains is limited and, though he did engage the best, Grand often had to be satisfied with scarcely more than the essentials of comfort. But he didn’t mind, and on this particular summer afternoon, at precisely 2:05, he stepped onto the first Pullman of the Portland Plougher, found his compartment, and began the pleasant routine of settling in for the long slow trip to New York. As was his habit, he immediately rang the porter to bring round a large bottle of Campari and a thermos of finely-iced water; then he sat down at his desk to write business letters.

It was known that for any personal service Grand was inclined to tip generously, and because of this there were usually three or four porters loitering in the corridor near his compartment. They kept a sharp eye on the compartment-door, in case Grand should signal some need or other; and, as the train pulled out of the station, they could hear him moving about inside, humming to himself, and shuffling papers to and fro on his desk. Before the train made its first stop, however, they would have to scurry, for Grand’s orders were that the porters should not be seen when he came out of his compartment; and he did come out, at every stop.

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Terry Southern Month is Serendipity Month

June 17, 2010 | by

It has been brought to our attention that June, 2010—Terry Southern Month—happens also to be the pub month for David Tully's critical bio "Terry Southern and the American Grotesque."

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Hard Corpse Pornography

June 15, 2010 | by

Photograph by Pud Gadiot.

During the height of the Vietnam War, Michael O’Donoghue, the late editor of National Lampoon, asked Terry Southern to submit pieces to the magazine. O’Donoghue published this letter under the banner “#1 in a Series of Correspondence with Distinguished Authors.”

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The Worm-ball Man Letter

June 11, 2010 | by

In the early eighties Terry Southern sent his Saturday Night Live collaborator Nelson Lyon an envelope containing three tabloid clippings and a letter written on ten sheets torn from a legal pad. Lyon calls this document “The Worm-ball Man Letter” and has shared it with many people. In the humble opinion of The Paris Review Daily, it may well be the best pitch—for anything—ever written. The original came with clear instructions from Southern: “Read after having read, and understood—repeat, understood—the news items.”

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