The New York Times
The Candy Men: The Rollicking Life and Times of the Notorious Novel Candyby Nile Southern
In the early fall of 1958 there appeared in Paris, in the familiar dull-green cover of the already notorious Olympia Press, a novel entitled Candy, a Rabelaisian satire loosely based on Voltaire's Candide by one Maxwell Kenton, pseudonym of its coauthors Terry Southern and Mason Hoffenberg. Following a modest first printing, the book drew the attention of the French censors, was banned, reissued by Olympia's intrepid publisher Maurice Girodias under the title Lollipop, rebanned, then again reissued. Within years it became one of the most talked-about novels of the tumultuous 1960s, selling in the millions of copies in America alone, its success prompting Hollywood to turn it into a movie. The rollicking, hilarious, and sometimes tragic story of Candy's public career is recounted here in full detail by Nile Southern, son of Terry Southern. From the book's humble beginnings in Paris in the late 1950s through an agonizing three-year gestation (often on paper napkins, lost, stolen, or destroyed) and the authors' wily, often self-destructive business dealings with their equally wily French publisher, to its chaotic and controversial publication in the United States, The Candy Men follows with unblinking scrutiny Candy's underground then mainstream success, the legal shenanigans surrounding it, the blatant piracy that plagued it almost from the start, and the star-studded cast with whose help it was made into one of the worst motion pictures of all time. Replete with deceptions and self-deceptions, midnight dope runs, betrayals left, right and center, court cases galore, and, in short, general pandemonium, The Candy Men -- starring Terry Southern, Mason Hoffenberg, and Maurice Girodias -- is as much fun to read as the original novel itself.
The New York Times
“The touchstone of Nile Southern’s compilation lies half-hidden in the deliciously disgusting correspondence between its disreputable heroes, who come shifting off the page in hipster mode just as, years ago, they leaned out of the shadows of the Dôme in Montparnasse. Old poops, puritans, and the politically correct may choke on indignation and outraged sensibilities, but the rest of us must laugh along with these anarchic voices. Such wild metaphors and riffs of fervid imagination, daring to celebrate our frailties and folly, are the stuff of literature and life.” Peter Matthiessen
"Thoroughly enjoyable . . . a highly successful example of an underexploited genre, the biography of a book." New York Times
“In a magnificent epistolary style . . . offers valuable insight into the Beat scenes of Paris and New York, as well as into the publishing world [and] . . . the lives and minds of two wildly creative literary characters: the authors themselves.”Publishers Weekly
"At times more fascinating and readable than the original novel . . . An important chapter in the history of popular culture and a worthy second look at one of the . . . masterpieces of erotic literature." Booklist
- Arcade Publishing
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 6.50(w) x 9.50(h) x 1.37(d)
Read an Excerpt
The Candy MenThe Rollicking Life and Times of the Notorious Novel Candy
Chapter OneParis: 1947-1953
Terry Southern and Mason Hoffenberg met in Paris in 1948. Both had come on the GI Bill and were - ostensibly - studying at the Sorbonne. Exchanging glances at the Café Royal on St. Germain, they must have immediately recognized each other as kindred spirits. They were an odd pair. Mason's Peter Lorre-like, hunched, bug-eyed demeanor (very New York) was in sharp contrast to Terry's Presbyterian, Texas-bred, hawklike features and reserved manner. At times they were like a comedy team - entertaining each other and those around them.
They shared a similar extreme distaste for the clichéd or hackneyed - the two of them could be very dismissive - and very funny.
Hoffenberg had large blue eyes that protruded, which his future publisher Maurice Girodias described as "full of false promise." As Girodias recalled:
When people saw him, they would start laughing convulsively without knowing why. He became a master of the minimalist approach: it was enough to look at someone in a certain way, to stare at a girl ... with a haggard grimace, to suggest a whole story.
Mason's delivery was Brooklynesque and nasal. While he spoke the raw truth as he saw it, often in harsh, uncompromising terms, Terry was a master of understatement, preferring to deflect the obvious via a surprising remix of clichés.
"Old values are crumbling" was an expression that brought particular satisfaction and mirth to them both - indeed, they relished it, for they were on the front lines of late '40s-'50s hipster iconoclasm, sending up and smashing down smugness wherever they found it. From their vantage points in Paris, and later Greenwich Village, they regarded the straight world as populated by Paleolithic squares, while the world of arts and letters offered an urgent creative antidote to a culture increasingly paranoid and conservative. Terry developed a pointed lexicon of nuance: a birdlike tilt of the head, a quick wince of the eyes, a click of the tongue against the roof of the mouth, lips frozen in a pained half-smile, smoke rising from a Gauloise - peppered with hash, no doubt. Mason's style, on the other hand, was more straightforward and confrontational - a nonstop commentary of brilliantly relevant non sequiturs, delivered in a kind of hipster whine. On Pernodsoaked evenings, when they could afford it, Mason and Terry could both be seen leaning toward each other at a café table, heavy with Sartre's "iron in the soul" - their attitude: bemused detachment, cutting insight, or outright stoned hilarity. As Terry recalled of those days in an interview with Mike Golden:
From '48 to '52, the cafés were such great places to hang out - you could smoke hash at the tables if you were fairly discreet. There was the expatriate crowd, which was more or less comprised of interesting people, creatively inclined. So we would fall out there at one of the cafés, sip Pernod until dinner, then afterwards go to a jazz club....
That ... was a golden era for Americans in Paris. All the great black musicians - Bird, Diz, Thelonius, Bud Powell, Miles, Kenny Clarke, etc., etc. - were first appreciated there, so it was a very swinging scene musically. Also, there is a large Arab quarter in Paris, and hashish was an acceptable (to the French authorities) part of the Arab culture - so the thing to do was to get stoned and listen to this fantastic music. That was the most important aspect of life in Paris in those days.
Terry and Mason embraced the notion of the Absurd as championed by Camus, who wrote, in The Myth of Sisyphus, "The absurd is not in man nor in the world, but in their presence together." Existentialism struck a deep chord in Terry, one which lasted throughout his life. "You do what you do," he once said, "I don't think intentions, opinions, expressions of attitude ... count for anything at all."
Many in the Paris Review crowd regarded Southern, photographer (future filmmaker) and jazz enthusiast Aram "Al" Avakian, and Hoffenberg as ultra-cool vets on the expatriate scene. The Southern-Avakian-Hoffenberg preference for pot and hash over booze also put them in a class of their own. John Phillips Marquand, son of the well-known novelist and a writer himself, found them intimidating. Southern seemed a "silent, inscrutable presence" who was, as described by Terry Southern biographer Lee Hill, "often seen in an attitude of enigmatic conspiracy with Avakian," who also frequented the Old Navy, a Left Bank hangout on the Boulevard St. Germain. At the Hotel Bar Américain in Pigalle one night, Southern told the more solvent Marquand it was bad form to buy a girl a drink: "You ruin it for the rest of us if you pay for her beer." On another occasion, Marquand recalled how he returned to a café to retrieve some papers he had left under a chair. Terry was there, and said with mock sympathy, "Forget it, man - it wasn't any good." Later, they became best of friends.
Their favorite hangouts, like the Café Flore in Paris and the White Horse Tavern in Greenwich Village, were once described by Terry as places "where the whole point was not to write a book but to talk one." Actually getting published was often an afterthought:
It was sort of an embarrassment like you had sold out or something. If it was corny enough and square enough and bourgeois enough to get accepted by some of these asshole editors, how could it be worth anything? ... [The literary scene] was all about reading and turning people on to things you had read like Mallarmé, Malaparte, and Canetti.... And then showing people stuff you had written and then there were those things where people would read aloud, which seemed a little suspect and too social for me.
As Henry Allen wrote of that era in the Washington Post:
The essence of hip was being in on the joke, aware of the irony and facetiousness of even your compadres in hipness.... Hipness was a constant struggle over information and who controlled it: you, the government, the newspapers, the guy drinking coffee at the next table. If you put him on, you controlled it. Terry Southern [and Mason Hoffenberg] took this grim doctrine and made it funny, satirizing both hip and square in a style of spectacular grace, clarity and modulation through all the realities you could bite into like a napoleon, all the flaky layers.
Put-on as reality, check was a key foil to the "moldy figs" who threatened to dampen everything with their stodginess. And "sense derangement" neutralized all. Besides hashish (whiz), marijuana (boo, bush), and Pernod, there was the music, the girls, and the put-on. Pulling off a put-on provided a contact high, one which Terry strove to replicate in his writing. Mason did it live - in real time. Shock - and something more - was what they were after in both their writing and their repartee with each other. Terry recalled the "Laurel and Hardy" aspect of their relationship:
Back in the late forties, when I was living in Paris on $75 a month from the GI Bill, Mason and I used to eat at this student restaurant, and it was really pretty bad - the kind of place where every now and then you get a piece of meat with the hair still on it. So it wasn't a scene that was too easy to make, but there was this very cute chick who also ate there, and I used to try to sit where we could see her eating this crap, because I felt, well, if she can do it, so can I. I had this image of her being so delicate and fastidious that nothing could possibly touch her lips unless it was perfect. And so one day I mentioned it to Hoff, and he stopped eating, turned towards me and said:
"Are you kidding? She's probably been sucking cock all day!"
They kidded each other constantly about getting laid, though both had very different ideas about the art of seduction. Terry played it cool and, when warmed up, was a consummate gentleman and teaser. Although Terry loved to kid around, and Mason played the role of agent provocateur and tough cynic, at heart they were both romantics. They became fluent in the French culture and the language. Terry's patois was put to service to bed French girls who sometimes resembled his Candy Christian. In an interview with Lee Server in 1986, he describes his techniques for picking up American college girls in Paris:
1) pay a French person to annoy her at a café, then go to her "rescue," dispatching him with rapier thrusts of Parisian argot.
2) hang around the American Express mail line until the girl with perfect American derriere and nips arrives, then get behind her in the mail line, concealing your appearance with a newspaper; and in that way learn her name (when she asks for her mail); then follow her to a hotel or to a café - and when opportune, approach her.... It can help if you are able to see where the letter she gets is from, then you can get some regional rapport at ID going ("Say, didn't you used to be a cheerleader in Racine, Wisconsin?").
The third surefire way is to go to the Louvre and sit on a bench in front of a large El Greco, studying it.... Then, when the time is right ... you make your move ("I know this is going to sound, well, sort of forward or silly even - but I couldn't help noticing how much your hands are like those of the women in El Greco's paintings.") Never fails ... Poon city!
Despite Terry's elaborate pickup fantasies, Mason was the one who managed to "score" in a serious way with the charming young Frenchwoman he would eventually marry, Couquite Matignon. When they met, Couquite was having an affair with Mel Sabre, who had written a novel about his time as a paratrooper during the war. Couquite recalls:
Mason started having eyes only for me, and decided to seduce this girl Mel had. My guess is that he was more interested in irking Mel, whom he was making fun of constantly, than actually starting something serious. Anyway, in no time he succeeded. When I told Mel, in The Old Navy, of this development, I found myself lying in the sawdust on the floor with a bloody nose and stars moving in front of my eyes: Mel had hit me with his huge paratrooper fist right in the middle of my face. Mason quite enjoyed his winning and picked up the debris.
Couquite's family was an interesting one. Her father was an oil prospector who died in a plane crash over Russia; her grandfather was Elie Faure, a writer and well-known art critic whose writing was favored by Henry Miller and Ezra Pound. Mason met Couquite at one of their favorite spots, the Royal, on the corner of rue de Rennes and boulevard St. Germain. Couquite recalls:
Mason was a "bad boy," and we had a lot of fun. Mason knew everybody. Jack Kerouac wanted to come live with us, which I wouldn't have minded - he was so handsome at the time - but when he suggested it, Mason kicked me hard under the table. Terry was so handsome and distinguished looking, always with tall, extremely elegant skinny girls. Doris Lessing [the novelist] was one of them and became my friend. Al Avakian, Johnny Welch [a light-skinned black Sorbonne student and jazz fan], Terry, they all lived in this little hotel in the 5th arrondissement - there was a stove in every room - to visit with your friends there - it was like going to a fabulous café.
One of Terry's friends, William Styron, was in another little hotel not far away, the Libéria, awaiting the publication of his first novel Lie Down in Darkness. He wrote in a memoir:
I was living then in a room that Doc Humes had found for me.... The hotel was on the little rue de la Grande Chaumière, famous for its painters' ateliers; my room cost the equivalent of eight dollars a week or eight dollars and a half if you paid extra to get the hennadyed Gorgon who ran the place to change the sheets weekly.
Another of Terry and Mason's pastimes was cultivating grand eccentrics, among them "Hadj" and "Zoon." One hangout was the Café Soleil du Maroc on rue des Rosiers in the Jewish quarter, where lemon tea was served with pipes of hashish. The two Americans adept in the French argot became friendly with the café's owner, a Moroccan named Hadj. As Couquite recalled:
It was a time when Jews and Arabs lived peacefully together in the 4th arrondissement. Mr. Hadj, so-called because he had done the Mecca pilgrimage - or pretended so - was jointly selling grass and changing dollars at the black market with a huge profit for both the GI Bill boys and himself.
Terry and Mason later dedicated Candy, to Hadj, and also to Zoon - who, if you asked him for a light, would oblige "by focusing sunlight on your cigarette with a magnifying glass." According to Terry:
He was really Mr. Soun ... a grand old man with a snow-white beard that came down to the middle of his chest. He was from Mongolia, and one of his IDs said he was eighty-nine. His story was that he had walked to France. He had no abode and slept on benches. He'd go into a trance and get several hours' rest that way. He hung out on the boulevards and wore a loose-fitting cloak with big pockets full of books, booklets, and clippings. He'd come to the Soleil du Maroc, and when you mentioned something, he'd pull out the relevant document from his cloak. If he phoned you, he'd say: "Ici Zoon!"
Mason and Terry grooved for years on characters like this in both the Village and Paris.
And then, of course, there was the writing. Early on, Terry developed the habits for composition that remained with him for the rest of his life. "Let discipline be my touchstone," he wrote in his journal of the early '50s, and later, toward fulfilling his minimum "page a day," he would say, "Get up, no matter what time, have coffee and go to the desk. Chain yourself to the chair." In his writing, Terry relished Edgar Allen Poe's technique of "taking things further." Terry's tales began combining a Beat sensibility with a refined narrative prose style. He seemed to attempt to "one up" the stylings of the top scribes of the '30s and '40s - Flannery O'Connor, Hemingway, Faulkner, O'Henry - while introducing contemporary themes: race, drug use, politics. He was trying to make beautiful prose do something new and relevant.
Despite their cynicism about publishers, both Terry and Mason were eager to appear in print, and the burgeoning small presses springing up at the time offered possibilities. One of the first magazines to showcase new writers on the European scene in English was David Burnett's New Story. Its cutting-edge aspirations attracted Terry and Mason, Mordechai Richler, James Baldwin, and others.
Excerpted from The Candy Men by Nile Southern Copyright © 2004 by Nile Southern. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Nile Southern is the coeditor of Now Dig This: The Unspeakable Writings of Terry Southern, 19501995 and is working on a biography of his father. He lives with his wife and children in Longmont, Colorado.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews
Nile Southern's 'the Candy Men' is a fascinating look at the legal/contractual problems surrounding the once-notorious novel 'Candy' and at the sometimes tortured relationship between the two authors. The book is something of a depressing read as we see Terry Southern and Mason Hoffenberg getting screwed(for lack of a better word) six ways from Sunday in respect to royalties from this best-selling comic-erotic novel. Terry and Mason paid the price for trusting people from the literary underground(i.e., Olympia Press) and then saw, thanks to the amibiguities of copyright law of the day, numerous fly-by-night editions of 'Candy' pop up with no reward to the original authors. Both men succumbing to the pitfalls of their own literary reputations, Mason turned on Terry(who by and large showed class in the whole affair)while Terry went on to do much of note, but not as much as he could have under more felicitous circumstances. In many ways, this book gives more insight into the personality of the enigmatic Terry Southern than the official biography. Famous names pop in and out of the book as the two literary meteors head to the ground. One is left with an overall sense of waste - what a pity both men didn't write more. One hopes, in particular, there is more forthcoming from the Terry Southern literary archive. For those interested in the careers of Southern and Hoffenberg, this is an absolute must. I would also strongly recommend this book to law students and law professors interested in the history of copyright law - there is much here to sink their teeth into. Students of American humour would also be well-advised to check this book out - it should be required reading, in fact. Nile Southern did a splendid job here(and, by the way - Nile at one point makes some terse but pointed political observations about the times we live in...I heartily agree. We need a 'Dr. Strangelove' for the so-called 'War on Terror', Nile...maybe you should write it!). Clamp your local bookseller in a figure-four leglock and apply pressure until he/she coughs up this book. By hook or by crook, get this....