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Selected Letters of Terry Southern

by Terry Southern edited by Nile SouthernBrooke Allen

Pub Date: Nov. 17th, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-9838683-9-2

A collection of letters from one of the 20th century’s most satirically witty writers.

It’s no surprise that Southern, the author of The Magic Christian and Candy, among other then-controversial books, should have taken an unusually thorough interest in genitalia. Among the admonitions in this entertaining gathering of letters is a note t friend and partner in crime Mason Hoffenberg that a certain young woman “is pointing your way, Mace, her loins heavy with the desire of you. She asked me what I thought her chances of getting some of your teencie.” Teencie? Well, if Keith Richards can write of a certain rock star’s “tiny todger,” the word will have to stand. Though loins and organs figure heavily in these pages, elsewhere Southern is given to business, pleading with Whoopi Goldberg here to allow him to write a vehicle for her (“When, oh when, shall such a grand showcase for your ultra-fab talents present itself again?"), there suggesting to Chuck Barris that the two of them might just cook up a game show together (“I have formats aplenty for some quite outlandish (though wholly credible) game shows, which could serve your purpose in ultra fab stead!”) Still elsewhere, Southern is more restrained, as when writing to William Saroyan and Philip Roth, though no less playful. To read through these letters, written to the likes of Allen Ginsberg, Ringo Starr, and Stanley Kubrick, is to take a wide-ranging tour of popular and literary culture during the golden age of the 1960s and ’70s. Southern begins to run out of steam after those anni mirabili, and some of the later letters have a get-off-my-lawn quality, as when he chides Phil Donahue for being nice to Rush Limbaugh. Still, to read of Southern’s demise while still hard at work is sobering—hard at work establishing a reputation beyond that of a writer’s writer, that is.

A must for fans of Southern, that great satirist, and a revealing look into the litbiz of old.