The Magic Christian by Terry Southern



I adore this tiny book.  I adore it not because it's a great book (it isn't) but because it's impurely and simply a book comprised of pranks. Beautiful, elaborate, socially conscious, inspired pranks. Mostly lowbrow Borat or Bruno style prank vignettes a la Monty Python, but intelligently, artfully executed nonetheless. It's Punk'D meets a strange, stiff brew of Airplane! and Dr. Strangelove: or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Absurd, often politically incorrect, ridiculosities. And funny I should mention Dr. Strangelove, as a certain Terry Southern co-wrote the screenplay.

1st ed., from Royal Books
As I earlier alluded, Southern's style in The Magic Christian is nothing to write home about. Which was okay for me since its plot equals pranks and nothing but pranks, and my resulting laughter, since I'm a silly, arguably infantile sucker for pranks, overrode concerning myself too much with Southern's slack style. But I will say that if Pynchon were The Sun all pomo'ers revolve around, Southern, stylistically, would be inhabiting Pluto thereabouts (or mysterious Planet X maybe), assuming of course that David Foster Wallace inhabits Mercury; Don Delillo, Venus; Richard Powers, Mars; and so on and so forth.

I'd never heard of Terry Southern until I saw his name dropped in a book review I don't recall, mentioning him alongside the usual pomo suspects inevitably referenced whenever the next great postmodern alleged masterpiece nears its long anticipated, over-hyped release date, which typically and swiftly metastisizes into a pathetically sad day in the publishing world when all is said and done, a tragic day indeed, involving much unavoidable anti-climax. Not to name names, but The Brief & Wondrous Life of Oscar Who? To me, it meant nada, muchas gracias. In fact, I haven't personally experienced such an embarassing anti-climactic episode since my lovely, well intentioned wife, suggested I try weening myself off Cialis. But I digress. Oops.

So, I saw what was for me at the time the unknown name of Terry Southern listed in the same paragraph with Thomas Pynchon in whatever book review that was, and think, wow(!), holy Shiiite Muslim, how can I not seek out a copy of The Magic Christian? And I'm glad I did. However, since the experience of reading the book differs little from sitting in a movie theatre and watching mostly funny comedy previews one right after the other, I'd hate to reveal the pranks here one by one and thus potentially spoil the best scenes. So, go see it, er, read it. (Actually you could go see it I suppose, the film version starring one of cinema's master thespians, Ringo Starr).

Find The Magic Christian used somewhere cheap. Plop down your buck fifty like I did, drive home, or bicycle (think green!) open the first page, and laugh your lowbrow ass off.