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One of the funniest, cruelest, and most savagely revealing books about American life ever written, The Magic Christian has been called Terry Southern's masterpiece. Guy Grand is an eccentric billionaire — the last of the big spenders — determined to create disorder in the material world and willing to spare no expense to do it. Leading a life full of practical jokes and ma One of the funniest, cruelest, and most savagely revealing books about American life ever written, The Magic Christian has been called Terry Southern's masterpiece. Guy Grand is an eccentric billionaire — the last of the big spenders — determined to create disorder in the material world and willing to spare no expense to do it. Leading a life full of practical jokes and madcap schemes, his ultimate goal is to prove his theory that there is nothing so degrading or so distasteful that someone won't do it for money. In Guy Grand's world, everyone has a price, and he is all too willing to pay it. A satire of America's obsession with bigness, toughness, money, TV, guns, and sex, The Magic Christian is a hilarious and wickedly original novel from a true comic genius.


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One of the funniest, cruelest, and most savagely revealing books about American life ever written, The Magic Christian has been called Terry Southern's masterpiece. Guy Grand is an eccentric billionaire — the last of the big spenders — determined to create disorder in the material world and willing to spare no expense to do it. Leading a life full of practical jokes and ma One of the funniest, cruelest, and most savagely revealing books about American life ever written, The Magic Christian has been called Terry Southern's masterpiece. Guy Grand is an eccentric billionaire — the last of the big spenders — determined to create disorder in the material world and willing to spare no expense to do it. Leading a life full of practical jokes and madcap schemes, his ultimate goal is to prove his theory that there is nothing so degrading or so distasteful that someone won't do it for money. In Guy Grand's world, everyone has a price, and he is all too willing to pay it. A satire of America's obsession with bigness, toughness, money, TV, guns, and sex, The Magic Christian is a hilarious and wickedly original novel from a true comic genius.

30 review for The Magic Christian

  1. 5 out of 5

    BlackOxford

    Grace & Favour The German economic sociologist, Max Weber, wrote The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism in 1905. It is one of the most important studies of Western culture in the 20th century. In it Weber contends that the attitudes of individual responsibility and disciplined industry which are essential to modern society are the product of the Protestant, particularly the Calvinist, revolution of the 16th century. In brief, his claim is that Capitalism is an evolutionary result of Ch Grace & Favour The German economic sociologist, Max Weber, wrote The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism in 1905. It is one of the most important studies of Western culture in the 20th century. In it Weber contends that the attitudes of individual responsibility and disciplined industry which are essential to modern society are the product of the Protestant, particularly the Calvinist, revolution of the 16th century. In brief, his claim is that Capitalism is an evolutionary result of Christianity. On the face of it, this interpretation might seem unlikely given the contradictions between the capitalist and Christian ethics. But that hasn’t stopped either academics or the general public from accepting Weber’s conclusion as reasonable. A key component of Weber’s thought is the idea of grace. In Calvinism, grace is an entirely unmerited gift given by God arbitrarily to individual human beings. Grace cannot be earned only received gratefully. Although there is no way to know with certainty whether one has been the recipient of grace, the likelihood is that one’s material circumstances, that is one’s accumulated wealth, reflect one’s spiritual state. Material prosperity reflects divine favour. This view is embedded in the general culture (and consequently politics, cf. Trump) of much of the world’s population. It is particularly prevalent among those Evangelicals who follow the self-styled Prosperity Gospel (again cf. Trump and his supporters). Terry Southern’s Magic Christian is a send-up of both Weber’s sociology of Capitalism and his Calvinist theology. The book’s protagonist, Guy Grand, is simultaneously a successful entrepreneurial billionaire (in 1959 dollars!) and the divine Holy Spirit of The Christian Trinity, who randomly dispenses largesse without any apparent rationale throughout the world (the book’s title refers to a ship, not to Grand, and is somewhat distracting). Grand is assisted in his mission by two maiden aunts, Agnes and Esther Edwards, who complete the Trinitarian dramatis personae (the first referring to Jesus as the Lamb of God, Angus Dei; the second is the Old Testament Jewish Queen of Persia and also refers to the near Easter deity Ishtar; Jonathan Edwards was the foremost American theologian of the 18th century). But unlike conventional theological portrayals of the Spirit, Grand is a cosmic practical joker rather than spiritual enlivener. He acts like the unpredictable god Coyote, traditional among native Americans, or the Scandinavian Loki, the perennial trickster. Grand is likewise in it for the laughs. So when he tips a hot dog seller $500, or pays someone thousands to eat a traffic summons, or hires a workman to pound saltines into dust in the middle of Times Square, his lack of rationality is part of a larger aesthetic, namely his personal sense of humour. He likes to see how folk react. He’s an equal opportunity abuser. Grand doesn’t restrict himself to dispensing his grace-filled wealth only to individuals. His best efforts are reserved for whole industries. From advertising, to cosmetics, to automobile manufacturing, he acquires companies, raises salaries, ruins the products, then pays off the employees and customers whose lives he has played with. This always “costs him a good bit to keep his own name clear.” But given the infinite store of grace (that is to say, wealth) available, money is never a constraint on the divine japes. No divine fingerprints are anywhere to be found. The Spirit remains anonymous. And although he is present at his best performances, no one even knows what he looks like. Yet there is a method in Grand’s apparent madness. He makes this clear in a pep talk to the staff of one of the companies he is about to destroy: “... a couple of consumer principles we can kick around here at conference: one, the insatiate craving of the public for an absolute; and two, the modern failure of monotheism—that is to say, the failure of the notion that any absolute can be presented as one separate thing.” In other words, there is indeed an inherent contradiction within modern consumer society: the failure to deal adequately with the necessity for contradiction. And Grand has a Grand Plan, as it were, a sophisticated programme for addressing what is clearly a gap in the market: “Monotheism is shot to pieces on the one hand—dire craving for an absolute existing on the other. I submit to you staffers that the solution establishes itself before our very eyes: namely, that an absolute—in any particular field—must be presented as a dichotomy!... Now what we want is one product which we can present in the two forms—good and evil, old and new, primitive and civilized—two items designed for the same use but presented as completely antithetical, both morally and philosophically—not aesthetically, however . . .” Grand knows his market. Its most profound desire is to be subjugated but to call that subjugation freedom. The American aesthetic! There we have it, the dichotomous condition of Capitalism and Christianity, separate and apparently incompatible, yet melded together seamlessly in modern American culture. The contradictions between the two - the material and the spiritual, rapacious competition and loving cooperation, this world and the next, subservience and independence - all assembled in one neat, easily available, reasonably priced package. Not just the best of all possible worlds, but also the most fun! At least for the divine Grand. What mega-church pastor could resist such a bonzo product line? Magic Christian is 70 years old. But aside from the protagonist’s use of trains rather than planes to get around, it isn’t at all dated. Southern was a satirical genius (cf Dr. Strangelove). But he was also an educated one. His targets weren’t individuals, or countries, but an entire culture. This culture hasn’t changed much at all since 1959 except to become more of itself. As the protagonist says, “Grand’s the name, easy-green’s the game.” And so it remains... on Earth as it is in Heaven.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Melki

    This one didn't sit well with me. Guy Grand is fabulously wealthy, and his favorite hobby is testing out his theory that there is nothing so degrading or so distasteful that someone won't do it for money. Yes, I get it - it's a satire on American culture, and our obsession with power and money. Maybe it's just me who doesn't find the idea of people wading into a vat of sewage to collect cash to be utterly hilarious. Perhaps I'm the only one who's not amused by a rich asshole who enjoys fucking w This one didn't sit well with me. Guy Grand is fabulously wealthy, and his favorite hobby is testing out his theory that there is nothing so degrading or so distasteful that someone won't do it for money. Yes, I get it - it's a satire on American culture, and our obsession with power and money. Maybe it's just me who doesn't find the idea of people wading into a vat of sewage to collect cash to be utterly hilarious. Perhaps I'm the only one who's not amused by a rich asshole who enjoys fucking with people. At this sorry point in our history, we have a manipulative game show host as a president, and unabashedly greedy legislators foaming at the mouth to take every penny from the less fortunate to give to the wealthy. With this hovering in the background, I just can't find a lot of humor here. Though I basically hated this book, and want to give it one star for leaving such a bad taste in my mouth, I'll chalk it up to wrong-book-wrong-time, and give it two. Reluctantly.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Το Άθχημο γατί του θενιόρ Γκουαναμίρου

    Guy Grand, a 53-year-old billionaire bachelor who still lives with his two overprotective, elderly aunts and enjoys pulling pranks and elaborate hoaxes on others. His intention is not to inflict harm, but to cause a little chaos and a temporary disruption of regularity. His victims are compensated with enormous sums of money, and it is often their own greed, megalomania or narcissism that makes them take the bait. Many are not even directly affected by the effects of the farce, but experience a Guy Grand, a 53-year-old billionaire bachelor who still lives with his two overprotective, elderly aunts and enjoys pulling pranks and elaborate hoaxes on others. His intention is not to inflict harm, but to cause a little chaos and a temporary disruption of regularity. His victims are compensated with enormous sums of money, and it is often their own greed, megalomania or narcissism that makes them take the bait. Many are not even directly affected by the effects of the farce, but experience a shock due to their own ideological bias. This book was written in 1959, depicting a society on the verge of a nervous breakdown, in the aftermath of World War II and the the Cold War that ensued, where the individuals had little or no power over a widely differential society other than to conform, being divided and polarized due to a dichotomized way of thinking. There is a 1969 film under the same title, starring Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr, an equally brilliant comedy, yet much darker and more surrealistic. Ανακάλυψα αυτό το βιβλίο τυχαία καθώς αναζητούσα πληροφορίες για κάτι άλλο. Αυτόν τον καιρό ξαναβλέπω για πολλοστή φορά μια από τις πιο αγαπημένες μου κωμικές σειρές, το “Monty Python's Flying Circus” στο Netflix και υπάρχει ένα επεισόδιο στην τέταρτη σεζόν με τίτλο "Ο πόλεμος της ελαφράς ψυχαγωγίας" (The Light Entertainment War), στο οποίο παρουσιάζεται ένα σκετς με τίτλο "Ξύλινες και τενεκεδένιες λέξεις" (Woody and Tinny Words). Δεν ξέρω γιατί με εντυπωσίασε τόσο αυτή η ανορθόδοξη διχοτόμηση της γλώσσας ανάμεσα σε καλές λέξεις που έχουν τη χροιά του ξύλου και σε κακές που έχουν τη χροιά του τενεκέ, ωστόσο στην προσπάθειά μου να ανακαλύψω αν επρόκειτο για παρωδία που βασίζεται σε κάποιο υπαρκτό έργο ή πρόσωπο, σκόνταψα επάνω σε μια βρετανική ταινία του 1969 με τίτλο "The Magic Christian" που μου φάνηκε εξαιρετικά ενδιαφέρουσα. Ενδιαφέρουσα γιατί εμφανίζονται δύο από τα μέλη της ομάδας των Monty Python's (ο John Cleese και ο Graham Chapman) με δυο σκετσάκια που έγραψαν οι ίδιοι, γιατί πρωταγωνιστούν ο Peter Sellers και ο Ringo Starr, και επίσης γιατί ανάμεσα σε άλλους, κάνει ένα σύντομο πέρασμα και ο Christopher Lee (υποδυόμενος τον "δράκουλα"). Μια παρανοϊκή ταινία, μαύρη κωμωδία την οποία βρήκα και παρακολούθησα. Αυτό το είδος της κωμωδίας που αποτελεί σάτιρα, που εκφράζεται μέσα από την υπερβολή και το παράλογο αλλά με έναν περίεργο τρόπο καταλήγει να είναι οικεία, γιατί στην ουσία λειτουργεί ως μεγεθυντικός φακός που εστιάζει πάνω σε διάφορες πτυχές του ανθρώπινου βίου, το αγαπώ ιδιαίτερα. (Αν το πάρουμε αναλογικά, όσο ανόητος είναι ο ρατσισμός προς στις λέξεις άλλο τόσο ανόητος είναι και ο ρατσισμός προς τους ανθρώπους). Το «Magic Christian» βασίζεται σε ένα βιβλίο που φέρει τον ίδιο τίτλο, γραμμένο μια δεκαετία πριν γυριστεί η ταινία, στα 1959, από τον Αμερικάνο συγγραφέα Terry Southern (1924–1995) ο οποίος εργάστηκε επίσης και ως σεναριογράφος (εκτός των άλλων συνεργάστηκε με τον Stanley Kubrick για την συγγραφή του σεναρίου της ταινίας " Dr. Strangelove, που προβλήθηκε στα 1964). Όλος αυτός ο κύκλος των κωμικών και των καλλιτεχνών εκείνης της εποχής, τόσο στις ΗΠΑ όσο και στη Βρετανία, μοιραζόταν έναν κοινό πυρήνα εμπειριών. Οι τραυματικές εμπειρίες του Β' Παγκοσμίου Πολέμου, ο Ψυχρός Πόλεμος, οι δυτικές κοινωνίες στα πρόθυρα νευρικής κρίσης όπου βρίσκουν διέξοδο στον καταναλωτισμό, παλεύουν να διασώσουν τα προσχήματα επιβάλλοντας στους εαυτούς τους ένα τυποποιημένο μοντέλο ζωής και συμπεριφοράς, εξοστρακίζοντας όλους εκείνους που αδυνατούν να χωρέσουν μέσα σε αυτό, αποτελούν μερικά από τα χαρακτηριστικά εκείνης της εποχής. Μια καλοστημένη φάρσα, στην πραγματικότητα δεν ανατρέπει, απλώς διαφωτίζει όλον εκείνον τον παραλογισμό που κρύβεται καμουφλαρισμένος πίσω από τη σοβαροφάνεια. Το Παράλογο προκύπτει από τον αρνητικό χώρο μια κατεστημένης Λογικής που δεν προσφέρει ικανοποιητικές λύσεις και διεξόδους στους ανθρώπινους προβληματισμούς και αγωνίες. Έχοντας όλα αυτά υπόψη, προχώρησα και στην ανάγνωση του βιβλίου, ένα σύντομο μυθιστόρημα που εξιστορεί τα καμώματα ενός Αμερικάνου δισεκατομμυριούχου που ζει μια φαινομενικά απολύτως συμβατική ζωή. Το κρυφό του πάθος ωστόσο είναι να σκαρώνει φάρσες, τις οποίες, συνήθως, σχεδιάζει ως την τελευταία τους λεπτομέρεια και επενδύει σε αυτές ένα μεγάλο μέρος από την τεράστια περιουσία του. Στο σημείο αυτό πρέπει να γίνει μια ουσιώδης διευκρίνιση. Ο στόχος του έργου δεν είναι να μας κάνει να γελάσουμε εις βάρος των φτωχών που πέφτουν θύματα ενός εκκεντρικού πλούσιου. Άλλωστε σχεδόν κανένας δεν θα έβρισκε κάτι τέτοιο ούτε αστείο, ούτε ευχάριστο. Ο Guy Grand, είναι ένας 53χρονος εργένης δισεκατομμυριούχος που ζει ακόμα μαζί τις δύο υπέργηρες και υπερπροστατευτικές, γεροντοκόρες θείες του και η μανία του να καταστρώνει φάρσες είναι γι' αυτόν ένα χόμπι "απλά για να γελάσω, δεν θέλω να βλάψω κανέναν", όπως ομολογεί ο ίδιος. Η πρόθεσή του δεν είναι να προκαλέσει στους άλλους κακό, αλλά να γελάσει με τη σύγχυσή τους, να προκαλέσει ένα μικρό χάος και μια προσωρινή ανατροπή της κανονικότητας. Τα θύματά του αποζημιώνονται με τεράστια χρηματικά ποσά και συχνά είναι η δική τους απληστία ή μεγαλομανία που τους κατευθύνει ώστε να συμμετάσχουν στις ανοησίες του Guy Grand, πολλοί από αυτούς θα μπορούσαν να έχουν αρνηθεί εξαρχής αλλά επιλέγουν να τσιμπήσουν το δόλωμα. Πολλοί δεν επηρεάζονται καν από τις συνέπειες της φάρσας αλλά εξαιτίας των προσωπικών τους ιδεολογικών αγκυλώσεων και προκαταλήψεων, σοκάρονται όταν έρχονται σε επαφή με κάτι το ανοίκειο και διαφορετικό. Εκτός αυτού συνήθως ο κεντρικός ήρωας επιλέγει τα θύματά του ανάμεσα στην ανώτερη κοινωνία για τις πιο χοντρές φάρσες του. Σε τελική ανάλυση, αν οι υπεύθυνοι για την απονομή της δικαιοσύνης και της διατήρησης της δημόσιας τάξης δεν εξαγοράζονταν, τίποτα δεν θα μπορούσε να συμβεί. Ο ίδιος ο ήρωας σε κάποιος σημείο εντοπίζει μία από τις παθογένειες του δυτικού πολιτισμού στην ανάγκη του για ένα Απόλυτο, το οποίο ωστόσο πλέον δεν μπορεί να βρεθεί στην παραδοσιακή μονοθεϊστική θρησκεία. Αυτό προκαλεί μια διχοτομία ανάμεσα στην ανάγκη για ένα απόλυτο και την ανάγκη για την απόρριψη κάθε απόλυτης έννοιας ή ιδέας. Οπότε, μοιραία, υποχρεώνεται να καταφύγει σε ματεριαλιστικά υποκατάστατα, κι εκεί ακριβώς φτάνουμε να βλέπουμε βιομηχανικά προϊόντα που διαφημίζονται ως η λύση για όλα τα ανθρώπινα προβλήματα, ως παράγοντας ευτυχίας και ισορροπίας και ενώ κατά βάθος όλοι ξέρουμε πως κάτι τέτοιο δεν είναι αλήθεια, ωστόσο αγοράζουμε την ελπίδα σε μπουκαλάκια, και προσπαθούμε να συσκευάσουμε την αγάπη και την ανθρωπιά μας, να την κοστολογήσουμε και να την καταστήσουμε διαθέσιμη σε τιμή προσφοράς, πάντα μέσα στο πλαίσιο μια διχοτομίας, όπου μόνο φαινομενικά έχουμε τη δυνατότητα επιλογής, ανάμεσα σε διαφορετικές ταμπέλες που τελικά περιέχουν μια κοινή ουσία. Το «Magic Christian» είναι ένα βιβλίο που, ακολουθώντας μια συμβατική αφηγηματική δομή, καταφέρνει να είναι ευχάριστο και χιουμοριστικό αλλά συνάμα να προσφέρει τροφή για σκέψη. Η ταινία που βασίστηκε σε αυτό προχωράει ένα βήμα παραπέρα, καθιστώντας δυσδιάκριτα τα όρια ανάμεσα στο πραγματικό και το παράλογο. Είναι και τα δύο εξαίσια έργα υπό την προϋπόθεση να είναι κάποιος εξοικειωμένος με αυτό το είδος του χιούμορ και να ταιριάζει στα γούστα και τις προτιμήσεις του.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Paul Secor

    Read years ago in college. My memories are that it was sophomoric and perhaps a bit obvious, but that parts of it were hilarious. My first thought was that it was dated, but then my mind went to all of the folks who are willing to make fools of themselves and wreck their lives, all to gain a little fame and fortune on reality TV shows these days, and I realized that it's not dated at all. Some things never change. The response that Guy Grand sends to the Italian noblewoman when she attempts to boo Read years ago in college. My memories are that it was sophomoric and perhaps a bit obvious, but that parts of it were hilarious. My first thought was that it was dated, but then my mind went to all of the folks who are willing to make fools of themselves and wreck their lives, all to gain a little fame and fortune on reality TV shows these days, and I realized that it's not dated at all. Some things never change. The response that Guy Grand sends to the Italian noblewoman when she attempts to book passage on his luxury liner is still embedded in my memory. Probably a three star book, but anything that's funny enough to bring laughter deserves an extra star from me.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Evan

    An extremely short (around 160 pages) and not quite satisfying farce about a billionaire, Guy Grand, who uses his vast wealth and free time to play elaborate and disgusting pranks on an unsuspecting public. It's a fun concept that never really achieves the sort of dizzying hilarity I would have liked. The idea of an enormous vat of heated sewage full of money that people must debase themselves to retrieve is quite amusing, sort of like an R-rated version of Double Dare. The novel is sporadically An extremely short (around 160 pages) and not quite satisfying farce about a billionaire, Guy Grand, who uses his vast wealth and free time to play elaborate and disgusting pranks on an unsuspecting public. It's a fun concept that never really achieves the sort of dizzying hilarity I would have liked. The idea of an enormous vat of heated sewage full of money that people must debase themselves to retrieve is quite amusing, sort of like an R-rated version of Double Dare. The novel is sporadically funny but doesn't really have a plot per se. Our hero(?) simply moves from one stunt to another until the story culminates with a cruise from hell on the eponymous Magic Christian, a luxury liner owned by Grand, which he uses as a seagoing torture chamber for the wealthy. I'm not sure what the point of it all is; maybe there's some social commentary that's been lost over the decades (I believe this was published in 1959 or 1960), but regardless, it's fun to imagine being a rich asshole like this, at least for a little while.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    Yes, it's true. This IS one of the sickest, funniest, most original books of all time. You'll laugh your guts out, for all the wrong reasons. Yes, it's true. This IS one of the sickest, funniest, most original books of all time. You'll laugh your guts out, for all the wrong reasons.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Reads & Reviews

    The Magic Christian is a blatantly dark, absurd, and unrelenting satire about a capitalistic society's relationship to money. Criticism is aimed at those who have wealth and those who seek it. In principle, I'm in agreement that actions spurred by money can be insane, inhumane--undignified, at best. In a sense, ridicule is warranted. However, despite the satire, not many of the scenes were humorous. Imagining people groping through hot manure and urine to grab cash is gross and sad--not funny. I The Magic Christian is a blatantly dark, absurd, and unrelenting satire about a capitalistic society's relationship to money. Criticism is aimed at those who have wealth and those who seek it. In principle, I'm in agreement that actions spurred by money can be insane, inhumane--undignified, at best. In a sense, ridicule is warranted. However, despite the satire, not many of the scenes were humorous. Imagining people groping through hot manure and urine to grab cash is gross and sad--not funny. I guess I feel pity for that kind of enslavement. From ancient to modern times, money can alleviate fears and suffering, particularly for those without it. Therefore, I find I cannot sit on a high horse and fault people for the excessive lengths many will suffer in pursuit of cash. Our society screams that money is power, comfort, and happiness. The poor are treated as failures and are disrespected. I disagree with that as it seems to me a person's 'worth' is deeper and more ethereal. The mightiest jab in the novel goes to the power and values enjoyed by the wealthy. However, that opinion is due to my own prejudice. For some, Grant, the protagonist, could be viewed as a brilliant man turning all of society on its head because it deserves it. I see Grant's actions as inane, unduly cruel, and non-instructive. Grant pokes at ant hills, whips out his magnifying glass, and toasts the ants for thrills and entertainment, or so it seemed to me. Stepping outside of my empathy for the book's population, the novel's statement is easier: Everyone has their price, and the greedy deserve to be skewered. Good observations, but I only found a couple scenes in this satire to be actually funny.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Nigeyb

    The Magic Christian is the book that indirectly got Terry Southern the job of writing “Dr Strangelove” for Stanley Kubrick. Guy Grand is an eccentric billionaire who uses his money to make fools out of people. Everyone has their price. This short book consists of a series of vignettes that riff on this theme. Some of his more outré ideas raise a chuckle but many are just plain silly. A pretty typical idea is Guy Grand secretly buying a New York advertising agency, and then appointing a pygmy as c The Magic Christian is the book that indirectly got Terry Southern the job of writing “Dr Strangelove” for Stanley Kubrick. Guy Grand is an eccentric billionaire who uses his money to make fools out of people. Everyone has their price. This short book consists of a series of vignettes that riff on this theme. Some of his more outré ideas raise a chuckle but many are just plain silly. A pretty typical idea is Guy Grand secretly buying a New York advertising agency, and then appointing a pygmy as chief executive who he pays to "scurry about the offices like a squirrel and chatter raucously in his native tongue" in front of all account executives and their important clients. Most satire does not age particularly well. The Magic Christian was published in 1959, and is very much of that era. The Magic Christian was also made into a 1969 British comedy film. I have yet to watch it but I have bought a DVD copy and I suspect I will prefer it to the book. The film relocates the story to 1960s swinging London with an all star cast which includes Peter Sellers, Ringo Starr, John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Raquel Welch, Spike Milligan, Christopher Lee, Richard Attenborough and Roman Polanski. I’ll update this review once I’ve seen it. 3/5

  9. 4 out of 5

    Neil Griffin

    If you're like me, you've probably wondered why all of the billionaires who own the world these days are so boring with their money. Yachts, planes, islands, and Warhols, but so many opportunities they completely miss: They have carte blanche to fuck with all of our heads with amazing pranks that the rest of us can't pull off due to lack of means. Terry Southern does us all a favor by creating a billionaire whose sole purpose is to spread confusion and chaos everywhere he goes with his money. I If you're like me, you've probably wondered why all of the billionaires who own the world these days are so boring with their money. Yachts, planes, islands, and Warhols, but so many opportunities they completely miss: They have carte blanche to fuck with all of our heads with amazing pranks that the rest of us can't pull off due to lack of means. Terry Southern does us all a favor by creating a billionaire whose sole purpose is to spread confusion and chaos everywhere he goes with his money. I won't go into the examples, but they are all pretty great. The story itself has an episodic flashback structure with a present-day narrative underneath. The flashbacks are great and the present narrative is decent, but a bit of a let down. That said, those little spots of the book take two minutes to get through at the most, so it doesn't really matter. All in all it's a funny little book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Terry Southern is best known for writing the screen play for Dr. Strangelove. It's one of my dad's favorite movies, but I always felt like I was not in the target generation. I didn't like this book much more than I liked the movie. It's about a man who uses his money to make fools out of people, and while the satirical commentary on greed is sometimes funny, it's never funny enough to be really witty, and never smart enough to be really insightful. Terry Southern is best known for writing the screen play for Dr. Strangelove. It's one of my dad's favorite movies, but I always felt like I was not in the target generation. I didn't like this book much more than I liked the movie. It's about a man who uses his money to make fools out of people, and while the satirical commentary on greed is sometimes funny, it's never funny enough to be really witty, and never smart enough to be really insightful.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Tim

    Southern was one of the leading lights of the 1960s counter-culture. He wrote the screenplays for "Easy Rider" and "Dr. Strangelove", and a few well-known novels. After reading this, I can understand why he was an icon. His humor was right in tune with (and may very well have been a big influence on) the times--it was sarcastic and pointed, but managed to stay light and irreverant, never descending to meanness or social criticism. Southern was a first-rate humorist and satirist. This is one of hi Southern was one of the leading lights of the 1960s counter-culture. He wrote the screenplays for "Easy Rider" and "Dr. Strangelove", and a few well-known novels. After reading this, I can understand why he was an icon. His humor was right in tune with (and may very well have been a big influence on) the times--it was sarcastic and pointed, but managed to stay light and irreverant, never descending to meanness or social criticism. Southern was a first-rate humorist and satirist. This is one of his best-known works, and was made into a movie starring Peter O'Toole and Ringo Starr. The film version was less than amazing, but the book I liked a lot. It is not really a novel in the sense of it being a long, developing narrative, but is more a collection of hilarious anecdotes centered around one character, the inimitable Guy Grand. He is a super-wealthy, WASP financier who enjoys playing strange pranks and tricks on people to amuse himself and stir up trouble. He buys up businesses and puts them to strange uses, always managing to keep his name out of the newspapers. Among his pranks are: buying movies and inserting strange little shots and cuts, buying up a luxury yacht (The Magic Christian) and turning its supremely luxurious opening cruise into a bizarre, nightmarish experience for the guests, selling cosmetics that do the opposite of what they are supposed to, sending his aunt to a dentist who is out of his mind, gathering a huge crowd and setting them all to fighting with sky-written racist slogans, and most famously, filling a swimming pool with shit and offal and silver dollars, and watching people go diving for the cash. It doesn't really come together as a novel, but so what? It is hilarious, and in Guy Grand, Southern created a memorable, amusing, and enigmatic character that deserves to live on. Maybe someone will do a sequel some day.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Michael Fuller

    Oh, how I love the Magic Christian. This book (really a novella) is not for everyone. If you are looking for a book about characters you can identify with, you are looking in the wrong place. Unless you have a wicked streak a mile long ... The Magic Christian is about one man's quest to find everyone's price. It is a mercilessly funny and mean novel about the modern age as has ever been written. The movie starring Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr was a decent, if slapstick adaptation. But, the spir Oh, how I love the Magic Christian. This book (really a novella) is not for everyone. If you are looking for a book about characters you can identify with, you are looking in the wrong place. Unless you have a wicked streak a mile long ... The Magic Christian is about one man's quest to find everyone's price. It is a mercilessly funny and mean novel about the modern age as has ever been written. The movie starring Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr was a decent, if slapstick adaptation. But, the spirit of the piece remained. Money. What will you do for money? How low will you go for the dollar? For those who really appreciate the absurdities of modern culture, Terry Southern is the man to smack them on the head and put a sticker on them. Money. The root of all evil, because it separates mankind and forever gives one power over another. Those who would say this is liberal silliness are probably so corrupted by money themselves they can't see beyond it. They are the men encouraging us to swim in the vats of excrement for their own amusement. How low will we all go? Taking on the establishment doesn't mean a lot these days, especially in the anti-baby boomer climate of the X and Y generation, but that doesn't mean this book won't appeal to anyone. The spirit of eternal outrage and insanity can be felt in these pages. Anarchy and the eternal optimism of humanity, intermingled in perversity. Terry Southern was the principle writer of Dr. Strangelove when it became a comedy. It was because Peter Sellers loved this novel.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Samford

    Perhaps one of the funniest books I've ever read. Perhaps one of the funniest books I've ever read.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ron Grunberg

    "Good Grief, it's Daddy!" No, that's another of Mr. Southern's masterpieces, one I've yet to re-read after all these years. (It's on order. I speak, of course, of "Candy.") But nevertheless, here, the Magic Christian. It's a very rare book, in that it's virtually unique, but addresses an issue that might be on many of our minds: what totally unique and cool thing would you do with some extra billions of dollars? Aren't we a little bored seeing how all the billionaires in our midst conduct themselve "Good Grief, it's Daddy!" No, that's another of Mr. Southern's masterpieces, one I've yet to re-read after all these years. (It's on order. I speak, of course, of "Candy.") But nevertheless, here, the Magic Christian. It's a very rare book, in that it's virtually unique, but addresses an issue that might be on many of our minds: what totally unique and cool thing would you do with some extra billions of dollars? Aren't we a little bored seeing how all the billionaires in our midst conduct themselves, so traditionally, so usurpingly, so without imagination? Great. Buildings. Stocks. Stores. Retail. Charity. We know. We know. But this guy. Guy Grand. A grand guy. He's an "eccentric" billionaire. He does things so weird, so cool, well, that's what the book's about. Southern chronicles Mr. Grand's exotic adventures, from "overtipping" a hot dog salesman some $499.80 on a 20-cent hot dog purchase, to putting a million dollars in one-hundred dollar bills into a vat admixtured with 500 pounds equally of cow shit, urine and blood along with a sign "Free $ Here." What would you do? Dive in? And he pays TV actors a million bucks to--in the middle of a dramatic scene on live primetime TV drama to suddenly look into the camera and say a line like, "I cannot go on. I will vomit if I say another word of these worthless treacle! I cannot! I must walk off!" Leaving stagehands, fellow actors, directors and big-time moneybackers horrified. This is how Guy Grand, a grand guy, gets his chortles. He lives--when he's in town which isn't too often--with two doting aunts on the upper east side--and seems to have a great time plotting against the establishment, the status quo, and everything normal.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Maureen

    the back cover states: "one of the funniest, cruelest, and most savagely revealing books about american life ever written". for me the cruelty that drives this satirical novel makes the magic christian a daunting experience. for the record i also did not laugh in "there's something about mary" when ben stiller caught his penis and was in pain -- so if that made you laugh uproariously, this may be the book for you. it is getting two stars because the writing was crisp and i enjoyed the opening tra the back cover states: "one of the funniest, cruelest, and most savagely revealing books about american life ever written". for me the cruelty that drives this satirical novel makes the magic christian a daunting experience. for the record i also did not laugh in "there's something about mary" when ben stiller caught his penis and was in pain -- so if that made you laugh uproariously, this may be the book for you. it is getting two stars because the writing was crisp and i enjoyed the opening train scenes of the book introducing guy grand, and the drawing room scenes with his aunts, and silly ginger. beyond that, the pranks that grand comes up with to test and torture people without resources like his are quite disgusting to me, and i didn't find them funny. also, once the recounting of grand's games begins each chapter ends in a very boring and predictable way. but who knows? on further reflection i may change it to one. this book inspired the simpsons episode "homer vs. dignity" where mr. burns pay homer to be his prank monkey, toying with the idea that every man has his price. tempted to move this to one star because i just remembered that my favourite line in the whole book was the opening quote, apparently the motto of the texas rangers: "little man whip a big man every time if the little man's in the right and keeps a'comin'."

  16. 4 out of 5

    Glaucon

    I did pick this book up and start cracking up almost immediately as I read the first page. And I do find New York hot dog humor hilarious. And of course, high-culture dwellers in low-brow scenarios never misses the mark of mirth. But after a while (a very short while, too) the strange, nefarious, deranged philosophy that Terry Southern seems to harbor creeps out. At first it makes you nauseous, but then you think about it more and more and you roll your eyes. At the bottom of this novel sits the I did pick this book up and start cracking up almost immediately as I read the first page. And I do find New York hot dog humor hilarious. And of course, high-culture dwellers in low-brow scenarios never misses the mark of mirth. But after a while (a very short while, too) the strange, nefarious, deranged philosophy that Terry Southern seems to harbor creeps out. At first it makes you nauseous, but then you think about it more and more and you roll your eyes. At the bottom of this novel sits the idea that humankind (the poor, unwashed masses, specifically) are so easily whirled into a frenzy at the thought of monetary gain, and that the working class are cattle masquerading as angry con-artists. We are all simpletons, sez Southern, still peeved about our desires no longer being met through the easy suckle of a mother's teet. Money has become an all-encompassing metaphor. Meh. The Magic Christian gets a lot wrong. Instead of this I think you should read Melville's Confidence Man or Gaddis' JR.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Stop

    The STOP SMILING Rebels + Outlaws Issue features a 16-page feature by Nile Southern, son of maverick New Journalist and screenwriter Terry Southern. It includes an extensive interview between Terry Southern and Stanley Kubrick, a short story and unpublished letters, and new information on some of Southern's greatest works, including Candy and the screenplay for Dr. Strangelove. Click for more on the Rebels + Outlaws Issue The STOP SMILING Rebels + Outlaws Issue features a 16-page feature by Nile Southern, son of maverick New Journalist and screenwriter Terry Southern. It includes an extensive interview between Terry Southern and Stanley Kubrick, a short story and unpublished letters, and new information on some of Southern's greatest works, including Candy and the screenplay for Dr. Strangelove. Click for more on the Rebels + Outlaws Issue

  18. 4 out of 5

    Simon Robs

    This light confection can be read at a sitting, and for that I'll not bash so silly a premise as a goofy billionaire concocting equally silly scenarios whereby he gets people to humiliate themselves for cash rewards while he Guy Grand (silly name too) revels in the debased human nature on display. "The Magic Christian" is a Titanic-like ship of Guy's fitted out with tricks & treats on a grand scale but really this whole silly book should rather have gone down with the ship which didn't. Tom McCa This light confection can be read at a sitting, and for that I'll not bash so silly a premise as a goofy billionaire concocting equally silly scenarios whereby he gets people to humiliate themselves for cash rewards while he Guy Grand (silly name too) revels in the debased human nature on display. "The Magic Christian" is a Titanic-like ship of Guy's fitted out with tricks & treats on a grand scale but really this whole silly book should rather have gone down with the ship which didn't. Tom McCarthy's book "Remainder" plays this storyline out far better with added psychological dimensions. Southern must have had fun trussing up this minor satire of privilege, little did he know that life and art do often times oscillate realities and Trump happens. Silly us!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey

    I was expecting so much more from the man who wrote the screenplay for Dr. Strangelove, one of my favorite movies. Sadly, this book just hasn't aged as well as Strangelove, and I don't think that my generation would find the practical jokes played by Guy Grand to be all that funny in the world we live in today. It only gets 2 stars because I laughed while reading the chapter on the Magic Christian, but that payoff was to little and came to late for me to recommend this book to anyone else. I was expecting so much more from the man who wrote the screenplay for Dr. Strangelove, one of my favorite movies. Sadly, this book just hasn't aged as well as Strangelove, and I don't think that my generation would find the practical jokes played by Guy Grand to be all that funny in the world we live in today. It only gets 2 stars because I laughed while reading the chapter on the Magic Christian, but that payoff was to little and came to late for me to recommend this book to anyone else.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Bill

    An eccentric billionaire uses his money to play elaborate tricks on people. I was disappointed that this never got subversive or disturbing enough to be worthwhile. Just sort of cute and elaborate but never outrageous enough to really enjoy. It just raised my cheapness cockles without satisfying my perverse annoying-ness urges....but it's short so why not. An eccentric billionaire uses his money to play elaborate tricks on people. I was disappointed that this never got subversive or disturbing enough to be worthwhile. Just sort of cute and elaborate but never outrageous enough to really enjoy. It just raised my cheapness cockles without satisfying my perverse annoying-ness urges....but it's short so why not.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sean

    Well, sure, that was kinda funny. A millionaire spends big money on screwing with people and laughing at society. I can see why it might have seemed a bit more outrageous 50 years ago.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Fernando

    Just who do you think you are, Mister! Just what is your game? Grand's the name, easy-green's the game, said Guy with a twinkle. Play along? Just who do you think you are, Mister! Just what is your game? Grand's the name, easy-green's the game, said Guy with a twinkle. Play along?

  23. 5 out of 5

    Margot Note

    Read it because Coop suggested it as one of his favorite books in a Boyd Rice documentary. BTW, Coop once said I had a "cute bottom," one of the highest compliments of my life. Read it because Coop suggested it as one of his favorite books in a Boyd Rice documentary. BTW, Coop once said I had a "cute bottom," one of the highest compliments of my life.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    I’d known about the loose film adaptation—an Anglicisation of the novel—but the reason I decided to read the book was discovering that Southern was a big fan of Henry Green and I’d just finished Back. I’ve not seen the film but I have seen a clip where Peter Sellers buys a painting just so he can cut the nose out of it in front of a suitably aghast John Cleese but that’s not in the book although it could’ve easily been because that’s precisely the sort of thing Grand would’ve done. The book clear I’d known about the loose film adaptation—an Anglicisation of the novel—but the reason I decided to read the book was discovering that Southern was a big fan of Henry Green and I’d just finished Back. I’ve not seen the film but I have seen a clip where Peter Sellers buys a painting just so he can cut the nose out of it in front of a suitably aghast John Cleese but that’s not in the book although it could’ve easily been because that’s precisely the sort of thing Grand would’ve done. The book clearly has its fans and I can see why but I still wonder why and I especially wonder why the film adaptation was not well-received because what seems to be lacking in the book are the visuals. Imagine someone explaining a Marx Brothers film to you, not repeating it verbatim but telling you what’s going on. It would lose so much in translation. And that’s what I think happens in the book. Each chapter describes something Grand does but as much of the humour is visual—and I clearly had problems visualising it—it falls flat. Actually one of the funniest bits in the book works because it’s not described: at one point Grand orders the contraction of a giant cauldron which he fills with animal blood, urine and excrement:Back at the site, Grand Guy donned his mask again, and dumped the remaining contents of the brief case into the vat. Then he stepped down, opened the can of paint, gave it good stirring, and finally, using his left hand so that what resulted looked childish or illiterate, he scrawled across the vat FREE $ HERE in big black letters on the sides facing the street. He climbed up for a final check on the work. Of the bills in the muck, the corners, edges, and denomination figures of about five hundred were visible. He then leaves.The commotion that occurred a few hours later on that busy corner of the Loop in downtown Chicago was the first and, in a sense perhaps, the most deliberately literal of such projects eventually to be linked with the name of “Grand Guy” Guy Grand, provoking the wrath of the public press against him, and finally earning him the label, “Eccentric” and again towards the end, “Crackpot.” The premise of the novel is a very simple one: what would happen in a practical joker became a billionaire? It’s a good idea and the above chapter would’ve made a great short story but then we get the same again but different and then the same again but different. He manufactures a deodorant that does the very opposite. He takes over a newspaper and runs it into the ground. He introduces a panther to a dog show. He goes on safari with a howitzer. They’re all funny ideas. Like paying two boxers to fight “in the most flamboyantly homosexual manner possible”:Fortunately, what did happen didn’t last too long. The Champ and the challenger capered out from their corners with a saucy mincing step, and, during the first cagey exchange—which on the part of each was like nothing so much as a young girl striking at a wasp with her left hand—uttered little cries of surprise and disdain. Then Texas Powell took the fight to the Champ, closed haughtily, and engaged him with a pesky windmill flurry which soon had the Champ covering up frantically, and finally shrieking, “I can’t stand it!” before succumbing beneath the vicious peck and flurry, to lie in a sobbing tantrum on the canvas, striking his fists against the floor of the ring—more the bad loser than one would have expected. In their day Spike Milligan or Monty Python would’ve had a field day with that; just think about Python’s Camp Marching sketch. The same goes for his scheme to issue a series of Do-It-Yourself Portables in which famous novels were republished “with certain words, images, bits of dialogue, and what have you, left blank . . . just spaces there, you see . . . which the reader fills in” for example Kafka’s Do-It-Yourself Trial: ‘Now you too can experience that same marvellous torment of ambiguity and haunting glimpse of eternal beauty which tore this strange artist’s soul apart and stalked him to his very grave! Complete with optional imagery selector, master word table and writer’s-special ball-point pen, thirty-five cents.’ Most chapters end with Grand having to fork out a small fortune to smooth over the mess he’s just made. The problem is we never actually get any insight into why he’s doing what he’s doing. There’s no growth. He keeps going until he gets bored and then moves onto the next prank. And that’s the problem here: this is a sketch show masquerading as a novel. If he’s trying to teach people something they don’t get it and I do suppose that is the point to the whole book: people don’t learn. In that respect the book is quite vicious and yet there’s an apparent innocence to Grand, a rather disconcerting innocence, as if he really doesn’t see how insulting he’s being. A lot of his ideas sound funny but the reality of poor and/or greedy people fighting in a vat of shit for money is really rather sad at the end of the day. In Terry Southern and the American Grotesque David Tully writes:The purpose of his con is to expose all other cons, to expose all beloved cultural poses and institutions as arbitrary illusions easily manipulated; to expose—in the true Decadent tradition, the “mad tradition”—that all culture is artifice, and the only truth is hungry, ravaging, abundant nature. Everyone, Grand ultimately tells us, has an angle, a price—so don’t get suckered, cheated, manipulated or abused. Grand’s pranks demolish a culture of limitations, revealing a culture of possibilities and freedom. In perpetuating these acts, Grand becomes a quasi-Situationist. – p.75I’m sure you can read that into the text but I suspect at the time Southern was just writing what he thought was funny. Offering a man $6,000 to eat a parking ticket isn’t funny though: “You needn’t actually eat the ticket,” he explained. “I was just curious to see if you had your price.” He gave a wink and a tolerant chuckle. “Most of us have, I suppose. Eh? Ho-ho.” This isn’t a bad book—far from it—but it is a little dated. The sad thing is nothing’s changed in fact I read an article recently in which Donald Trump was compared to Grand and it made me shudder.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    Freaky satire of the cartoonishly rich. Odd and campy, sometimes dated, but the satire is wonderful.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Derek Emerson

    Terry Southern is an American novelist, Academy-award nominated screenwriter, and even later did writing for Saturday Night Live. He is praised for his satire and humor, and "The Magic Christian" has no shortage of luminaries singing its praises. Not this reviewer. The novel revolves around Guy Grand, a billionaire who likes to spend his money to show how far people will go for money. He says everyone has a price, and he intends to find it. Would you eat a parking ticket for a few thousand dollar Terry Southern is an American novelist, Academy-award nominated screenwriter, and even later did writing for Saturday Night Live. He is praised for his satire and humor, and "The Magic Christian" has no shortage of luminaries singing its praises. Not this reviewer. The novel revolves around Guy Grand, a billionaire who likes to spend his money to show how far people will go for money. He says everyone has a price, and he intends to find it. Would you eat a parking ticket for a few thousand dollars? Grand finds out, although whether or not that really says anything about the moral character of the individual is questionable. Would you swim in a cesspool of toxins for thousands? Again, he is trying to push the limits on how far one will go. This is an interesting concept, but the point is quickly made, and so even this short novel becomes repetitive. Grand sets up a prank, we see the event occur, and then it is done. In between we are part of his conversation with this two live-in aunts and a desperate, socialite. Then back to another prank. While this repetition is tiring, it becomes irksome because many of the pranks say nothing about our moral limits. At the end he opens grocery stores, sells everything at loss in one night, closes it, and does it again. What does that say about anything? The same works for "The Magic Christian" prank, which is the name of an ocean liner he buys and refurbishes as an incredibly high end travel liner. Those lucky enough to get a place, gradually find themselves on a boat with people intended to make them feel uncomfortable, nothing to eat but potatoes, and a host of other problems. To what point? This says nothing about people and their moral limits. It does say something about Grand. Grand himself is an interesting character. He sets up these elaborate plots for his own humor and often takes part in them, although unknown to others in the crowd. He clearly delights in making people uncomfortable. However, at times he is simply sadistic, which makes this his moral challenging of others questionable. Plus, he has no hesitation is using others, especially the disadvantaged, to meet his needs. He puts circus people on his liner and sends the bearded lady in to the dining room, naked. Funny? Well, to him perhaps, but only it only demeans her and embarrasses others -- there is no moral lesson for others here. So, could Southern be actually hoping to have Grand stand in as the satirical character? Is he the one we are supposed to see ourselves reflected in? If so, he fails to make that connection, and as such the book fails. As a short story, this could have some potential, but the repetition and the failure to hold to his own thesis creates an incomplete novel.

  27. 4 out of 5

    J.P.

    This is a case of truth becoming stranger than fiction. This 1960 novel by Terry Southern hinges on the "outrageous" premise that people will do anything for money---including humiliating themselves in public. The book amounts to a series of episodes proving that premise. In a nutshell? Billionaire Guy Grand uses his seemingly infinite financial resources to set up ridiculous scenarios---dumping $1 million in cash into a vat of cow manure situated on a Chicago street, with the vat marked "FREE M This is a case of truth becoming stranger than fiction. This 1960 novel by Terry Southern hinges on the "outrageous" premise that people will do anything for money---including humiliating themselves in public. The book amounts to a series of episodes proving that premise. In a nutshell? Billionaire Guy Grand uses his seemingly infinite financial resources to set up ridiculous scenarios---dumping $1 million in cash into a vat of cow manure situated on a Chicago street, with the vat marked "FREE MONEY"; a million-dollar ad campaign for a deodorant that deliberately stinks to high heaven; paying a bystander on a New York street $6000 cash to eat, literally, a parking ticket---designed to mess with people's heads. Grand finds that the average man and woman are willing to tolerate surreal amounts of silliness, as long as the greenbacks flow freely. This short (148-page) novel moves at a breezy pace and makes for easy reading. There are some funny episodes; the one in which Grand pays soap opera actors to interrupt the story by turning to the camera and admitting how absurd their show is stands out as a highlight. The segment which explains the book's title is also inventive. The rest is just okay. Amusing, but not laugh-out-loud funny. If you happen to be the sensitive type, though, you might find Grand's doings somewhat sadistic. Southern never explains or elaborates on why Grand does what he does; the author simply lays the events out with a nudge-nudge, wink-wink attitude. It's like the humor of the Three Stooges. You either "get it" or you don't. I suppose "quaint" would be the most accurate term to describe THE MAGIC CHRISTIAN. As anyone who has seen "Leave It to Beaver" can tell you, the Kennedy era was a time in which people still actually dressed up to go out to dinner. Perhaps in the early 1960s, a much tamer and staid time than now, this book did seem truly outrageous. Today though, in the age of reality TV? The boys from "Jackass" and the contestants on "Wipeout" or "America's Next Top Model" make Guy Grand seem refined by comparison. Life has simply passed THE MAGIC CHRISTIAN by. Are you looking for a quick read that might bring you a smile or two? Then give THE MAGIC CHRISTIAN a try. But keep your expectations for laughs low. This formerly "cutting edge" novel's blade, these days, is about as sharp as an episode of "Laugh-In".

  28. 5 out of 5

    Steven

    Published in 1959, Terry Southern could be considered the precursor to Chuck Palahniuk. Though the subject matter is quite expository of American culture and its love of money, it falls a little short in my expectations for satirizing the spirit of the American citizen. Part of the reason for this is the opening of the book during which Guy Grand essentially tempts people to dive through simmering manure, urine, and blood for a chance at collecting free money. I found myself delightfully repulse Published in 1959, Terry Southern could be considered the precursor to Chuck Palahniuk. Though the subject matter is quite expository of American culture and its love of money, it falls a little short in my expectations for satirizing the spirit of the American citizen. Part of the reason for this is the opening of the book during which Guy Grand essentially tempts people to dive through simmering manure, urine, and blood for a chance at collecting free money. I found myself delightfully repulsed, but at the same time asking myself, "Would I dive into that for a chance to strike it rich?" I decided I wouldn't, but that's not because I'm noble. It's because I hate it when dirt gets under my fingernails, so I couldn't imagine being covered in manure, urine, and blood would do to me. Other than make me want to die. From this, the books moves back and forth from Guy Grand interacting harmoniously with his aunts and a boisterous woman named Ginger Horton, and increasingly less impressive vignettes of Guy Grand "making it hot" for American citizens. It as as if Southern started the novel with his most impressive idea to get the reader hooked, and then wrote the rest of it somewhat quickly, hoping that the opening would keep people intrigued long enough to finish the very, very short novel. What I did love about this book was that Guy Grand's untold billions allows him the leisure time to expose American culture as being quick to sacrifice honor for a quick buck. In this novel, people would throw their entire careers away because Guy Grand would pay them enough money to live off of the rest of their lives. While this was interesting, I do think the datedness of the book makes some of the "shocking" chapters much less shocking and much more...indifferent. I often found myself reading something and just think, "Okay, um...whatever." As mentioned before, it's a quick read, so I think it's something fun and light to put your mind into if you've recently finished something pretty dense like The Subtle Knife as I just had. It was fun, light, and gave a lot of good laughs. There's a lot of subtle humor, too. Oh and one last thing: Terry Southern co-wrote Dr. Strangelove, so if you're a Kubrick fan, as I am, it's worth reading this book.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Nina

    This was a pick by my favorite librarian - Justin at the Roosevelt Island branch. This book made me laugh aloud several times - once while I was reading it in San Francisco in a diner, to the point that I was almost embarrassed for myself. I just couldn't stop. The arrangement of the story didn't draw me in. Flashbacks of scenes from this rich prankster's life that go back and forth with the present day where he's sitting in a drawing room with his two aunts and a pretentious woman with a really This was a pick by my favorite librarian - Justin at the Roosevelt Island branch. This book made me laugh aloud several times - once while I was reading it in San Francisco in a diner, to the point that I was almost embarrassed for myself. I just couldn't stop. The arrangement of the story didn't draw me in. Flashbacks of scenes from this rich prankster's life that go back and forth with the present day where he's sitting in a drawing room with his two aunts and a pretentious woman with a really annoying dog. I loved the scene in the restaurant where he wolfs down the food and swoons and carries on as if he's a food critic and has paid the waiters to act entirely underwhelmed by him. Also, the cruise ship with the captain who is on video feed to each cabin. At 3 in the morning, an intruder bonks the captain on the head and then takes over the wheel. Then, when they strike something in the sea, the captain becomes demonstrative for once and is announcing through video feed something, gesticulating like crazy the whole time, but the volume has been turned off to the cabins so no one can hear him. The last scene of the captain where he acts drunk and close talks to the camera... i could go on, but it's worth wading through some slow chapters to make it to the end.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    What in the world is up with Terry Southern?? He is hilarious, but perhaps his unique talent is more suited to the cinema (he co-wrote Dr. Strangelove), where he can deliver his punches and the audience can gasp and laugh and convulse & then run out into the real world when it's all over & go about their business with those crazy echoes in their heads. The novel just seems a strange medium for him. This book is one long, painfully prescient crazy joke on our consumer culture, in the manner of a What in the world is up with Terry Southern?? He is hilarious, but perhaps his unique talent is more suited to the cinema (he co-wrote Dr. Strangelove), where he can deliver his punches and the audience can gasp and laugh and convulse & then run out into the real world when it's all over & go about their business with those crazy echoes in their heads. The novel just seems a strange medium for him. This book is one long, painfully prescient crazy joke on our consumer culture, in the manner of a series of skits, or a play that could never be produced. The framework is the many schemes of "Grand" Guy Grand, a man who amuses himself by spending enormous chunks of his massive fortune on manipulating the public at large both intimately and (sorry) grandly in the most offensive, outrageous, & brilliant ways. Perhaps knowing this is a thin thread to hang a "novel" on, Southern wisely alternates a bunch of incidents with a quiet conversational scene that serves to ground the goings-on a bit, and he wraps the whole thing up before it falls apart like an SNL skit that goes on too long.

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