NOW DIG THIS: The Unspeakable Writings of Terry Southern, 1950–1995

Terry Southern, Author, Nile Southern, Editor, Josh Alan Friedman, Editor . Grove $26 (263p) ISBN 978-0-8021-1689-5

With this outstanding, volatile mélange 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 O'Donoghue (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." Southern's 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 O'Hara—make the closing pages sparkle. Readers will be grateful to Nile Southern for unearthing Terry's "unclassifiable schools of literary invention" from mini-storage for this variegated, entertaining book. (June 1)

Forecast:Psychedelic cover art angles full-tilt towards the target audience. Arriving four months after Lee Hill's biography of Southern (HarperCollins), this is promoted at www.terrysouthern.com, a site that suggests there is more material forthcoming.

Reviewed on: 05/28/2001
Release date: 05/01/2001
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Paperback - 263 pages - 978-0-8021-3894-1
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