Tag Archives | Literature

The Terry Southern Revival

Gore Vidal on Terry Southern, courtesy TS Literary Trust

Gore Vidal on Terry Southern, courtesy TS Literary Trust

Terry Southern was credited by Tom Wolfe as having invented “New Journalism” with the publication of “Twirling at Ole Miss” in Esquire in 1962, and his gift for writing memorable film dialogue was evident in Dr. Strangelove, The Loved One, The Cincinnati Kid, Easy Rider and The Magic Christian. [1].

As his popularity faded, Southern became a favorite of the kind of hipster for whom the more obscure and clever the author, the cooler he was. Now, however, a broad Terry Southern revival is in full swing. This month saw the inaugural Terry Southern Prize for Humor awarded at the Paris Review Spring Revel; The New York Observer reports on presenter Fran Lebowitz’s comment:

“I wonder if Terry Southern would have won a Terry Southern award for humor. The answer, of course, is no.”

Most recently, Publishers Weekly reports that Southern’s son, Nile, is working with Jane Friedman’s Open Road Media to publish ebook editions of Candy (written with Mason Hoffenberg); Flash and Filigree; The Magic Christian; Blue Movie; Texas Summer; and Red-Dirt Marijuana:

The e-books will each include new covers and an illustrated biography of Southern that will feature photos and documents from his life. Open Road is also offering a selection of commentary and video content on Southern on the Open Road Media Web site that will feature interviews with Nile Southern, author Fran Lebowitz and author John Jeremiah Sullivan.

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A Novel Starring The IRS? David Foster Wallace’s Posthumous Jest

David Foster Wallace

David Foster Wallace. Photo: Steve Rhodes (CC)

There’s no doubt that The Pale King, the new, posthumous novel by David Foster Wallace about the lives of workers at the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, has generated more interest from reviewers than almost anything else of recent vintage. There are reviews in almost every publication that’s ever run a book review.

Foster Wallace’s publishers timed the publication to coincide with the American tax filing date of April 15th, and certainly it’s a good hook for many reviewers. In this Sunday’s New York Times Book Review section there are three separate pieces devoted to the book, but the review that’s attracted the most attention from the media, if not necessarily with readers, is Jonathan Franzen’s for The New Yorker.

For some reason it has royally p*ssed off other lit mags and blogs that The New Yorker decided to make the review available only to people who “like” its Facebook fan page.… Read the rest

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‘Janeites’ Create Jane Austen 2.0

Arden Dale and Mary Pilon unveil an unlikely subculture for the Wall Street Journal:
Ben Kemper, 19, plans to wear a frock coat with cuffs to the annual Jane Austen birthday tea in Boise, Idaho, on Saturday. The outfit will be "the whole shebang," says Mr. Kemper, who hopes to scare up some yard work so he can pay for the new threads. He says his costume may include riding boots, a cane, gloves and a buttoned vest. Mr. Kemper is among an unlikely set of fans of the long-dead Ms. Austen—young people...
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Before “The Secretary,” Hannah Cullwick was “The Maid”

secmaidCullwick claimed to be able to tell where her husband had been by the taste of his boots. Kathryn Hughes reviews Love and Dirt in the Guardian:

The secret marriage between minor man of letters Arthur Munby and his servant Hannah Cullwick has become one of the great set pieces of 19th-century social history. Whenever a case study is needed to show the sheer weirdness of Victorian men in the bedroom, the story of how the gentlemanly Munby stalked, caught and loved the huge, dirty Cullwick over a period of 40 years is pressed into play … At Munby’s direction, Cullwick produced thousands of pages of letters and memoir which told the strange story of how she came to spend 40 years in a sado-masochistic relationship where her greatest treat was to be allowed to lick her husband’s dirty boots (horse shit was her favourite relish).

Cullwick’s private name for Munby was “massa”, an uneasy term that looked back to her native Shropshire dialect and elided it with that of the negro slave whose blackness she replicated with soot, as much for her own pleasure as for his.

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Graham Greene And Other Great Authors Were British Spies

author-graham-greene-talking-with-actor-alec-guinness-on-location-for-our-man-in-havana-premium-19372174.jpegAmong the eyebrow-raising tidbits in the first authorized book on the history of the MI6 (Britain’s secret service) is the acknowledgment that the United Kingdom used some of its most celebrated authors as spies, among them Graham Greene and Somerset Maugham. The reason being that they could visit exotic places without suspicion, and write reports filled with pithy witticisms, the Guardian reports:

The authors Graham Greene, Arthur Ransome, Somerset Maugham, Compton Mackenzie and Malcolm Muggeridge, and the philosopher AJ “Freddie” Ayer, all worked for MI6, Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service admitted for the first time today . They are among the many exotic characters who agreed to spy for Britain, mainly during wartime, who appear in a the first authorized history of MI6.

Greene, Mackenzie, Muggeridge and others who have written about their secret work make it clear they were reluctant spies approached by MI6 because of their access and knowledge of exotic parts of the world.

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Interview With ‘The American Book of the Dead’ Author Henry Baum

Via Technoccult:
How much do you buy the fringe ideas that have influenced the The American Book of the Dead novels? For example, do you really think the world is in need of a mass die-off to curb over population? Baum: It's a disturbing concept and one I'm still exploring. I look at the recent mosque controversy and wonder, for instance, what would happen if there was UFO disclosure. If people think Obama's a socialist Hitler terrorist now, they might be turned into David Ickean conspiracy theorists at that point - he's a reptilian. There's just so much volatility that seems like it could end in violence. People are crazy - how do we introduce new radical ideas into the culture if a centrist like Obama is seen as a radical? I'm not advocating genocide...
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Kafka’s Last Trial

Franz Kafka

Franz Kafka

Elif Batuman relates a tale of eccentric heirs, Zionist claims and a court fight that Franz Kafka himself would have understood all too well, in the New York Times Magazine:

During his lifetime, Franz Kafka burned an estimated 90 percent of his work. After his death at age 41, in 1924, a letter was discovered in his desk in Prague, addressed to his friend Max Brod. “Dearest Max,” it began. “My last request: Everything I leave behind me . . . in the way of diaries, manuscripts, letters (my own and others’), sketches and so on, to be burned unread.” Less than two months later, Brod, disregarding Kafka’s request, signed an agreement to prepare a posthumous edition of Kafka’s unpublished novels. “The Trial” came out in 1925, followed by “The Castle” (1926) and “Amerika” (1927). In 1939, carrying a suitcase stuffed with Kafka’s papers, Brod set out for Palestine on the last train to leave Prague, five minutes before the Nazis closed the Czech border.

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