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The Magic Christian Paperback – June 11, 1996


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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

One of the funniest, cruelest, and most savagely revealing books about American life ever written, The Magic Christian has been called Terry Southern's masterpiece.

Guy Grand is an eccentric billionaire--the last of the big spenders--determined to create disorder in the material world and willing to spare no expense to do it. Leading a life full of practical jokes and madcap schemes, his ultimate goal is to prove his theory that there is nothing so degrading or so distasteful that someone won't do it for money. In Guy Grand's world, everyone has a price, and he is all too willing to pay it.

A satire of America's obsession with bigness, toughness, money, TV, guns, and sex, The Magic Christian is a hilarious and wickedly original novel from a true comic genius.

"This is at once the most profoundly satiric and wildly comic account of our life and times in years."--Nelson Algren, The Nation

"Terry Southern is the most profoundly witty writer of our generation."--Gore Vidal

"Mr. Southern is wonderfully prodigal of comic ideas.... An enormously funny and satisfying satire, done with a great thrifty distinction."--The Spectator

"Terry Southern writes a mean, coolly deliberate, and murderous prose."--Norman Mailer

Terry Southern was the author of Flash and Filigree, Candy (with Mason Hoffenberg), Blue Movie, and Red-Dirt Marijuana and Other Tastes. He was also an Oscar-nominated screenwriter whose credits include Easy Rider, Dr. Strangelove, and Barbarella, as well as an adaptation of The Magic Christian.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 148 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; Reprint edition (June 11, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802134653
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802134653
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #169,805 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Terry Southern (1924-1995) was an American author and screenwriter. His novels--including the bestselling cult classics Candy (1958) and The Magic Christian (1959)--established Southern as a literary and pop culture icon. He was also nominated for Academy Awards for his screenplays of Dr. Strangelove (written with Stanley Kubrick and Peter George) and Easy Rider (written with Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper). His other books include Flash and Filigree (1958), Red-Dirt Marijuana and Other Tastes (1967), Blue Movie (1970), and Texas Summer (1991). In later years, he wrote for Saturday Night Live and lectured on screenwriting at New York University and Columbia University.

Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 29, 1996
Format: Paperback
In literary history, "The Magic Christian" will be remembered
as the book which got Terry Southern the job of writing "Dr
Strangelove": it seems that Peter Sellers loved the book
and sent out 100 copies to his friends, one of whom was the
great Stanley Kubrick. The book, indeed, is a side-splitting
satire, following one Guy Grand (a "grand guy"), a millionaire
of uncertain origin, as he pays for exorbitant pranks with
the sole purpose of "making it hot" for people. ("How much
would it cost me to make you eat that ticket?" Grand asks an
astonished traffic cop.) But the book is far from silly: like
much of Southern's work, the comedy barely masks strong
critiques of greed and elitism. It is a must-read for the
aspiring satirist and would-be social critic.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Sir Charles Panther VINE VOICE on February 27, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
What would you do if you had the resources to buy anyone or anything you wished? Guy Grand acts immediately and directly on this premise, and the results are, on the surface hilarious. But it is Southern's quiet, subtle, and expertly woven satirical narrative and incisive comment on 1950s America amid the vignettes of money-fueled chaos that are the true gems, and the heart of this wonderful novel. The best example of this is the book's final lines, where Southern closes gently yet pointedly with a description of "the strange searching haste which can be seen in the faces, and especially the eyes, of (American) people in the (American) cities, every evening, just about the time now it starts really getting dark" (parenthesis added).

A comment of this book is not complete without a nod to the 1969 movie of the same name. Believing that most readers of this book will come to it by way of the film, I think there may be some disappointment. This is no massive epic (the novel is only 148 pages) that had to be pared down for screenplay treatment, so there's just not that much more to enjoy. Most of the sketches from the movie are directly out of the book, the only real change being the story's placement in late 1960s mod Britain, not 1950s Eisenhower-Middle America. This change of venue works very, very well for the film, with its English cast and contributors, including lead Peter Sellers, hippie Beatle Ringo Starr, Monty Python studs John Cleese and Graham Chapman, and ubiquitous party-boy Who drummer, Keith Moon as an addled nun. The only thing missing from the film is the novel's quiet satire.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By landru141 on June 2, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read this a long time ago in college. I've been waiting for it to come out in some form or another forever. Thank God for the Internet.

This book (really a novella) is not for everyone. If you are looking for a book about characters you can identify with, you are looking in the wrong place. Unless you have a wicked streak a mile long ... The Magic Christian is about one man's quest to find everyone's price. It is a mercilessly funny and mean novel about the modern age as has ever been written. The movie starring Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr was a decent, if slapstick adaptation. But, the spirit of the piece remained.

Money. What will you do for money? How low will you go for the dollar? For those who really appreciate the absurdities of modern culture, Terry Southern is the man to smack them on the head and put a sticker on them. Money. The root of all evil, because it separates mankind and forever gives one power over another. Those who would say this is liberal silliness are probably so corrupted by money themselves they can't see beyond it. They are the men encouraging us to swim in the vats of excrement for their own amusement. How low will we all go?

Taking on the establishment doesn't mean a lot these days, especially in the anti-baby boomer climate of the X and Y generation, but that doesn't mean this book won't appeal to anyone. The spirit of eternal outrage and insanity can be felt in these pages. Anarchy and the eternal optimism of humanity, intermingled in perversity.

Terry Southern was the principle writer of Dr. Strangelove when it became a comedy. It was because Peter Sellers loved this novel.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Michelle M. on February 19, 1998
Format: Paperback
This was one of the funniest books I've ever read. I bought it in a bookstore and ended up reading it, in it's entirety, before leaving the coffee shop. (Forget that everyone was staring at me for laughing out-loud so often.) I then, of course, ordered all the rest of his novels from Amazon.com. Southern takes you through the absurd, yet never dull, life of one grand guy and his antics, and exceeds mere story telling with an unsurpassed imagination and originality.

I found it exceptionally intelligent, appreciated it's hysterical ludicruousness, and will be passing it along to friends and distant cousins, twice removed, as often as possible.

His other writing achievements, along with his novels, include various articles, essays, and the screenplays to "The Magic Christian", "Easy Rider", "Barbarella", and "Dr. Strangelove."
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By S. Rudge TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 3, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
If the Peter Sellers/Ringo Starr movie had never been made this book probably would have been mostly forgotten except by die-hard fans. Terry Southern is an excellent satirist and short story writer, but this very short, easy to read novel is written more like a rough draft than a finished work.

In the novel, Guy Grand is a fabulously wealthy man who likes to "make things hot" for people. Chapter by chapter Grand uses his massive wealth to just plain mess with society by getting people to do strange things or putting them in strange situations. After the first couple of chapters, the novel falls into a routine which is repeated until the rather abrupt ending of the book. The routine involves a few paragraphs of Guy talking to his elderly aunts (who seemed to be pulled right out of "Arsenic and Old Lace") and an extremely fat female friend about random events. Abruptly the chapter switches over to a description of one of Guy's expensive pranks. Each prank ends with the comment that it cost Guy quite a bit to get his name clear of that one. This style of writing makes the book read less like a novel and more like the sketch comedy of Monty Python's Flying Circus or Saturday Night Live (for whom Southern did some writing several years later).

Some of Guy's pranks are designed to reveal some sort of flaw in the human character of civilized man related to greed and often the reader is left to make the decision of whether or not they themselves would participate and at what cost. For example, the famous giant offal-filled tub loaded with money; would you be one of the people venturing into the filth to retrieve thousands of dollars? Maybe not, but would you eat a parking ticket for a few thousand dollars?
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