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Harry Allen, a “master of American clichs, expectations and pieties,” and used these tools to deflate the Great American Sales Con with mimicry and logic chased into absurdity. But after a momentary and perhaps illusory deflation, they swelled again, hardly even bothering to change form. Is the pop world’s present infatuation with heroin any less pus-filled than Candy’s search for beauty in the mean streets? Is Hollywood’s conveyor belt of It Girls and Boys any less pornographic than Blue Movie’s one-armed dwarfish blow-job dispenser? Is Bill Gates’ billion-dollar Seattle homestead any less worthy of debunking than Guy Grand’s dunking-forcash in a sewage pit? Is the old military industrial complex now leading us by the tail with a responsibility worthy of observational restraint? Life said that Candy would change sex; I wasn’t there, but maybe it did. But AIDS and disintegrating gender boundaries have since changed it much moreso why does Candy still read like the “morally bracing satire” William Styron first judged it to be? Because the hucksters hawking each consecutive Brave New World from then to now have remained hucksters, and because Southern remained unsold. His books can’t be read straight. They are more the indirect expression of a certain sort of highly aware and vastly amused consciousness, filtered through a sophisticated layer of assumed attitudes and innuendo and in-joke recognition. With Southern’s humor, you either got it or you didn’t; it wasn’t the sort of thing to sneak in subtly and change your mind before you knew what was happening. Sometimes it went over the top. Is there any way to explain Barbarella as a satire? Or anything else? And sometimes he hit the nail. Is there any movie other than Easy Rider that better defined the hippie-era declaration of domestic war? TOO BIG FOR TEXAS? Southern’s best work spent much of the 1980s out of print, and only this past summer Grove reissued Southern’s best satire, the core curriculum of his work. Perhaps as the self-flagellating hangover of the ’70s slid into the best of all possible ’80s, Southern’s puncturing wit lost its sympathetic audience. It seems unlikely that present times will be any kinder to Southern’s exclamated and italicized brand of hysterical outrage than have been the two decades since his work was last in wide favor. Terry Southern was a very funny writer, but he was not benignly funny. He was uncomfortably funnymore akin to comedians Lenny Bruce and, more recently, Bill Hicks, than the new crop of novelists exploring domestic relationships in his worldly wake. But the boils continue to swell, so why has no one followed Southern’s lead? Contemporary fiction seems to have either retreated into precisely the sort of mid-century nostalgic insularities that Southern exploded, or otherwise blasted off into some porno version of outer space, without even waiting to see if there might be readers hanging onto the rocket fins. Today, it too often seems, we either write of what we wish we’d been or we write of what we hope or fear to be. Terry Southern wrote big laughing holes in how we are. In an ideal literary universe, somebody ought to be doing what Southern did. In this lesser world, someone ought at least remember that, once, Southern did. Yet there are reasons few Texans might remember, much less claim Terry Southern. He is not the classic .Texas-rooted writer in the Bedichek/Dobie/Graves mold, and unlike Larry McMurtrythe state’s reigning literary expatriatehe did not milk his homeland for an endless string of sentimental westerns. Southern left Texas after attending S.M.U., bound for W.W. II, and never lived here again. His creative flowering took place in Paris, and subsequent successes took him to England, California, and New York, where he played his talent on fields glittering with the literati of the day. His talent, you could argue, was too big for the state. But there are also reasons why Texas should remember Terry Southern, not least of which being that in the face of The Great American Sales Con, he was a fearlessly funny deflater. That he was applauded for it once says something salutary about the literary climate and appetites of his time. That he’s now best remembered as a footnote in film history, if at all, says something much more depressing about the literary complacency of ours. And then, as now, the world has no grounds whatever for complacency. Brad Tyer is a Texas writer who recently said farewell to Terlingua to return to the Houston desert. t411 is -4./e 100/11 AUSTIN’S MOST COMPLETE INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDER IS MOVING TO NEW OFFICES MARCH I. WE’VE TAKEN 7,000 SQUARE FEET TO HOUSE 356 NEW DIGITAL HIGH-SPEED PHONE LINES. 5Q 14/kiM it 7ori o. \(..41 STARTING MARCH 15; MORE SPEED MORE POWER MORE FLEXIBILITY LOW FLAT-RATE PRICING The Eden Matrix OUR NEW PHYSICAL ADDRESS: LITTLEFIELD BUILDING 106 E. SIXTH STREET, SUITE 210 AUSTIN, TX 78701 VOICE: 512.478.9900 FAX: 512.478.9934 MARCH 14,1997 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 25