85. Candy, Terry Southern (1958)

Terry Southern is a hard writer to pin down. Among other things he gave us the screenplays of Barbarella, Easy Rider and Dr Strangelove, he was at the epicentre of 60s counterculture and he knew absolutely everybody. His books are a bit hit and miss, which is hardly surprising if you look at his over-refreshed life story, but there are a couple of essential highlights. Blue Movie (1970) is a fantastic film industry satire, which greatly inspired a couple of my earlier books. But Candy (partly a collaboration with Mason Hoffenberg) is the masterpiece. Basically it’s a groovy rewrite of Voltaire’s Candide, this time with a voluptuous, naive heroine who skips from one insane sexual encounter to the next, never losing her cheery faith in human nature despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. It’s hilariously funny and absolutely filthy, and almost certainly wins the prize for the most politically incorrect book on this list. What I really love about it (apart from the filth, natch) is that behind the tits & ass there’s a Swiftian ‘savage indignation’ at work, tearing at the prudery of 50s America and ushering in the sexual revolution of the 60s. Candy has a lot to say about the position (all puns intended) of women in that ambiguous decade: in Candy’s case, flat on her back while some tiresome man spouts philosophical claptrap to get into her knickers.

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