In These Times (7/30/01)
Financial Times (7/7/01)
New York Times (6/17/01)
May 28, 2001
NOW DIG THIS; The Unspeakable Writings of Terry Southern, 1950-1995
Edited by Nile Southern and Josh Alan Friedman. Grove, $26 (280p)
With this outstanding, volatile melange of short pieces, Nile Southern repositions his father--the conduit between the Beatles and the Beats--as a Class Four hurricane in the Hipster Pantheon. Labeled the Mt. Rushmore of modern American humor by Saturday Night Live head writer Michael ODonoghue (who hired him), Southern (1924-1995) is best remembered for his Oscar-nominated screenplays (Easy Rider, Dr. Strangelove) and novels (Candy, The Magic Christian). He also unleashed assorted anarchic articles, reviews (in the Nation), short stories and photo captions (Virgin: A History of Virgin Records, his last book). The opening interview from 1986 is followed by four stories that animate characters via expressive, askew vernacular. Letters to Lenny Bruce and George Plimpton, plus a hilarious commentary on female orgasms mailed to Ms. in 1972, are included. The famed pie-throwing sequence deleted by Kubrick from Dr. Strangelove is described in detail in Strangelove Outtake: Notes from the War Room. Southerns sharp Esquire piece on the 1968 Chicago police attacks on protesters remains potent. Affectionate portraits of pranksters, poets and friends--Plimpton, Maurice Girodias, Burroughs, Ginsberg, Abbie Hoffman, Vonnegut, Frank OHara--make the closing pages sparkle. Readers will be grateful to Nile Southern for unearthing Terrys unclassifiable schools of literary invention from mini-storage for this variegated, entertaining book.
Forecast: Psychedelic cover art angles full-tilt towards the target audience. Arriving four months after Lee Hills biography of Southern (Harper Collins), this is promoted at http://www.terrysouthern.com, a site that suggests there is more material following.
Kirkus Reviews (April 15, 2001)
A darling of the postwar literary counterculture is honored in a tidy collection that makes coherent sense of what might have been a group of funny if disparate works. Rather than reverting to chronology, Southern's son (and literary executor) Nile and editor Friedman wisely divide the great man's writings by genre (tales, new journalism, etc.) and subject (the film business, writing, etc.)--an arrangement that points out Southern's strengths in each. Just as The Magic Christian and Easy Rider show his varieties of outrageousness, so do his short writings. The journalism (particularly his piece on working with "big Stan Kubrick") reveals his ease at mixing tale-telling and corporate critique, while the letters, depending on your point of view, are either examples of fine verbal architecture, or irritating self-involvement. His appreciations of other writers are personal and original, notably in his Paris Review interview with British novelist Henry Green and his love note on the weirdness of "Ed Poe" (as in Edgar Allan Poe). Of note to film historians is Southern's go at adapting Arthur Schnitzler's Rhapsody: A Dream Novel for the screen--the psychosexual drama Eyes Wide Shut would have been quite different if Kubrick had taken Southern's tack of going "the comedy route." As for sex and drugs, they waft throughout the collection, settling in as subject matter for such works as "A Conversation with Terry Southern and William Burroughs" and "Letter to George Plimpton: A Sports-Death Fantasy" (the latter involving ice cubes).
When you're done, even if you feel you've read all you need about sweet drugs and pert body parts, it's hard not to like Southern. He was big-hearted and irrepressible, an optimist of excess when it seemed such things were possible.
Sampled PRAISE for NOW DIG THIS:
"as this collection ... proves, he was still turning out good stuff right up until the bitter-sweet end. "--Financial Times
"[Now Dig This] reveals a writer defined by his generosity, by the pursuit of fun and by an insatiable hunger...this is porous writing...
--The New York Times
"He had a bebopper's fleet rhythm, a raconteur's talent for tapping out tales that took outrageous turns, a poet's grace on the page...A fantabulous ride.
Existential, quintessential Terry, disgraceful and delightful.
"Terry Southern was the class clown of the quality-hip scene, larger, weirder, and a lot funnier than life." --Jules Feiffer
It is, in short, the
"next bookSouthern fans have been waiting for all these years."--Time.c
ABOUT THE BOOK
TERRY SOUTHERN FORUM
REGISTER FOR TS NEWSLETTER
Terry Southern Website
Order the book