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