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BOOKS & THE CULTURE Sugar High BY PETER LASALLE The Candy Men: The Rollicking Life and Times of the Notorious Novel Candy By Nile Southern Arcade Publishing 388 pages, $27.95 ril he late Terry Southern was known for a lot of things, including doing much of the writing on the screenplays of the landmark films Dr. Strangelove and Easy Rider. But for most it will always be his association with the supposedly racy 1960s best-seller Candy that comes to mind when his name gets mentioned. Southern co-authored the novel, and I must say right off that the subtitle of this book by his son Nile Southern saves the reviewer the chore of providing a working precis of its contents, also establishing the right mood for the entire offbeat tale: “The Rollicking Life and Times of the Notorious Novel Candy.” Born in Alvarado, Texas and raised in Dallas, Southern studied some at SMU before serving in Europe in World War II. He apparently liked the image his Texas roots gave him with his literary pals in Paris, New York and Hollywood over the years. Actually, when I myself spent the better part of a few days with him in 1981 during his campus visit to UT-Austin, I don’t know how many times I heard him tell somebody even here that he was originally fromin his words and spoken with a relaxed Lone Star baritone”Big D”; it was something that I, as a recently transplanted Yankee creative writing teacher from puny Rhode Island, got a kick out of, anyway. Like many others of his generation, he used the student-benefits GI Bill as more a less a ruse to set himself up as a writer in Paris, where he soon met a young poet with a drug problem, Mason Hoffenberg. Hoffenberg grew up in a rich New England family with money tied to the Buster Brown children’s shoe company, and like Southern he shuttled back and forth between Paris and the suddenly very swinging Greenwich Village in the 1950s. Both of them were trying to launch themselves as serious writers, usually flat broke and leading the boho life indeed. To pay the bills, they signed on to write a novel together that became Candy, published under the pseudonym Maxwell Kenton. Southern seems to have done the bulk of the work. They produced it in installments and on a straight-purchase basis for the French publisher/bon vivant extraordinaire Maurice Girodias, who ran the Olympia Press in Paris. The press was mainly known for smutty, quickly written original novels in English, marketed in France to tourists and bound in the distinctive dull-green covers of the Traveller’s Companion series. Girodias himself thrived on the publicity of obscenity charges \(his motto was said to be, “A day course of his publisher’s career he also brought out a few novels that no house in America or the U.K. would touch because of their sexual content, books on that same Traveller’s Companion list that later became acknowledged literary masterpieces: William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch, J. P. Donleavy’s The Ginger Man, and, most famously, Vladimir Nabokov’s broodingly beautiful prose poem telling of a middle-aged European professor’s obsession with a young American girl, Lolita. What happened in the cases of literary offerings from Olympia was often pretty much the same: at first various sticky censorship problems and then a drawn-out legal struggle by the author to wrench copyright back from a greedy Girodias and have the book published by a more established house. With new access to letters from Olympia Press’s files, Nile Southern relates the Candy saga and its effect on the three principals involvedthose two co-authors and Girodias, the “Candy men” of the title. The novel was loosely modeled on Voltaire’s Candide, about an innocent embarking on adventures in the dangerous real world. In this case the innocent is a wide-eyed, angelically lovely college co-ed named Candy Christian from Racine, Wisconsin. Candy has a selfless need to free humanity from the burden of sexual frustration. She repeatedly submits to roues who take carnal advantage of her, ranging from a goofy uncle to a sleazy Midwestern guru to a sadistic New York hunchback to a giant statue of the Buddha in Tibet \(way, throughout it all, naive and idealistic Candy can only softly, half wondrously exclaim, “Good grief?”, which becomes the trademark happy mantra for this forerunner of the flower child. When the novel first appeared in Paris in 1958, its handling by Olympia proved quite typical. It emerged as an underground favorite, making more and more profits. Most of the money went to Girodias and always seemed out of reach to both Southern, now back in America and enjoying success as a regular contributor to Esquire and a big-time movie writer, and Hoffenberg, in and out of drug rehab and heading toward the oblivion of a dead-ending lifestyle on the fringes of the international rock-and-roll scene. There was extensive, expensive legal maneuvering among Southern, Hoffenberg, and Girodias concerning copyright and royalties, as well as the to-beexpected censorship difficulties. Eventually number one on some U.S. best-seller lists and with literally millions of copies sold when it was at last published more legitimately in 28 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 8/13/04