One of the pioneers of the New Journalism along with more celebrated writers like Tom Wolfe and Hunter S. Thompson, Terry Southern wrote short stories, a couple of novels, Dr. Strangelove
and a good part of Easy Rider
. Esquire sent him out to cover the 1968 Democratic convention with drug buddy William Burroughs and post-modern theorist Jean Genet, and it'd be a challenge to come up with better late-sixties cool credentials. At its best, his short story collection Red Dirt Marijuana and Other Tastes
approaches counter-culture lost gospel. "Twirling at Ole Miss" is a proto-gonzo investigation into the teenage baton battalion, and "The Sun and the Still-born Stars" is a moving piece about films and farms set in James Agee's America. Although a little tarnished (and dated) with a sixties liberal brand of soft racism, "Razor Fight" is a fantastic country bar crapshoot tragedy and " You're Too Hip Baby" is dead-on portrait of white college kids trying hard to be cool and get down with black music scenes. "Recruiting for the Big Parade" delivers a firsthand account of the Bad Day at the Pig Bay, and Kennedy's Cuban misadventure has some parallels with more recent botched invasions. It's not uniformly strong- the imagined apartment swap between Kafka and Freud is more What's New Pussycat?
than Dr. Strangelove
as far as farcical period comedies go. Anyway, just go to Amazon or the library and get hip already.
Catalog of Cool has an interview
with Mr. Southern from 1982, when he was a staff writer at SNL.