Southern's list of correspondents reads like a cultural Who's Who of the last half-century. In this collection we find letters to fellow writers including Nelson Algren, William S. Burroughs, George Plimpton, Alex Trocchi, Allen Ginsberg, Henry Green, Gregory Corso, playwright Jack Gelber, and Mason Hoffenberg (co-author of Candy). His letters extend to Hollywood luminaries such as Stanley Kubrick, Dennis Hopper, Rip Torn, and George Segal. Southern also corresponded through the years with legendary performers and artists of the day, among them Lenny Bruce, Harry Nilsson, Ringo Starr, John Lennon, Larry Rivers, and gallery scene-maker/impresario Robert Fraser.
Even more idiosyncratic and outrageous when writing to his friends than he was for an audience, Southern dashed off a plethora of hilarious, shocking, frequently offensive, and unprintable missives to his many friends and colleagues. As this brilliant collection reveals, Southern was one of the great letter writers of the twentieth century.
Terry Southern (1924-1995) was an influential writer known for his unique, comic voice. His novels include Flash and Filigree, Candy (with Mason Hoffenberg), The Magic Christian, Blue Movie, and Texas Summer. His short stories have been anthologized in the collections Red Dirt Marijuana and Other Tastes and Now Dig This: The Unspeakable Writings of Terry Southern, edited by Nile Southern and Josh Alan Friedman. His biting satirical wit displayed in Dr. Strangelove and Easy Rider (both recipients of Academy Award®-nominations for Best Screenplay) continues to influence generations of writers and directors. His other film credits include: Barbarella, The Loved One, The Cincinnati Kid, End of the Road, and The Telephone. Michael O'Donoghue once proclaimed, “If there was a Mount Rushmore of American humor, Terry Southern would be the mountain they carve it from," while Norman Mailer called him the “heir to Nathanael West.”
Brooke Allen is the author of two books of literary essays, Twentieth-Century Attitudes and Artistic License; a work of history, Moral Minority: Our Skeptical Founding Fathers; and a travel narrative, The Other Side of the Mirror: An American Travels in Syria. She has also written a biography, Benazir Bhutto: Favored Daughter, forthcoming from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Her essays and reviews have appeared in the New Criterion, the Hudson Review, the Atlantic, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times Book Review, among other publications. She holds a PhD from Columbia University and teaches literature at Bennington College.
Nile Southern is a writer and filmmaker from New York City. His books include Now Dig This: The Unspeakable Writings of Terry Southern, 1950-1995 (edited with Josh Alan Friedman), and The CANDY Men: The Rollicking Life and Times of the Notorious Novel, CANDY (Arcade, 2004), which won Colorado’s Book of the Year for Creative Non-Fiction. He has written journalism for STOPSMILING, Cineaste, and the National Herald. His fiction includes The Anarchivists of Eco-Dub (altx.com ebooks), and has appeared in O-Blëk, Open City, Fiction Collective’s Black Ice, and ANTIBOOKCLUB’s A Brief History of Authoterrorism. He manages the Terry Southern Literary Trust, and is currently making a film about Terry Southern. He lives in Boulder, Colorado, with his wife and two daughters.
Book design by Will Petty