|New York Public Library Acquires Archive of Easy Rider, Dr. Strangelove,
and Candy Writer Terry Southern
Master Satirist's Literary Manuscripts, Correspondence, and Photographs
Made Available Through a Gift by Film Director Steven Soderbergh
New York, NY, April 1, 2003 -- The New York Public Library has acquired the archive of novelist, essayist, and screenwriter Terry Southern (1924-1995), whose distinctive voice in the screenplays Dr. Strangelove and Easy Rider helped define the Cold War paranoia and counter culture of the 1960s. A serious writer who successfully transitioned to the film world, Southern bridged boundaries between literary and pop culture figures, working with authors like William Burroughs and Christopher Isherwood, as well as icons of the '60s such as the Beatles, Stanley Kubrick, and Peter Sellers. Southern, whose black humor struck at the heart of complaceny and hypocrisy, won a large measure of renown and notoriety for his sharply satirical and often sexually explicit writings, notably The Magic Christian and Candy.
In addition to materials directly relating to Southern's works, the archive includes correspondence and other items from such literary and cultural figures as George Plimpton, Allen Ginsberg, Norman Mailer, Frank O'Hara, Larry Rivers, William Styron, V. S. Pritchett, Gore Vidal, Abbie Hoffman, and Edmund Wilson, as well as rock stars including John Lennon, Ringo Starr, and the Rolling Stones. The archive was acquired for The New York Public Library's Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature from the Terry Southern Literary Trust through a generous gift from film director Steven Soderbergh.
"The New York Public Library is delighted to welcome into its Berg Collection the rich archive of Terry Southern, which will complement the Library's many resources documenting literary, political, and cultural movements in late modern America," said Paul LeClerc, President of The New York Public Library. "We are all grateful for the generosity of Steven Soderbergh and for the assistance of Terry Southern's son, Nile, who was so eager to see his father's papers placed here, in one of the world's great libraries."
"Terry Southern was an actual genius," said Steven Soderbergh. "His totally unique style and point of view extended beyond just his books and films, and anyone who chooses to explore Terry's life through these archives will find themselves endlessly fascinated and wildly entertained."
"The New York Public Library's acquisition of the Terry Southern Archive is very important to me as a real confirmation of Terry's accomplishments," said Nile Southern, the son of the author and co-trustee of the Terry Southern Literary Trust. "The collection will serve to connect the dots and bridge the gaps between the Beats and the Beatles. Terry helped introduce Ginsberg, William Gaddis, Henry Miller, and Burroughs to America -- when they were banned or unknown here -- it is all there in the archive, these secret histories. They are all stories which, taken together, weave a unique history of a man at the creative center of his times."
William D. Walker, Senior Vice President and Andrew W. Mellon Director of The Research Libraries, said, "Collecting materials documenting the richness of 20th-century American culture is a priority for the Research Libraries of The New York Public Library. The archive of Terry Southern, in addition to other recently acquired collections such as the Malcolm X Collection and the Jack Kerouac Archive, will offer researchers access to exceptional materials on artistic and political expression in the 1960s."
The Terry Southern Archive
Southern's screenplays Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) and Easy Rider (1969) earned him Academy Award nominations. "His screenplays are crafted in a very literary, writerly way, and he was a meticulous reviser, as researchers in this archive will discover," said Isaac Gewirtz, Curator of the Berg Collection of English and American Literature. "Southern remains a compelling literary and cultural figure," he continued, "because his best novels and screenplays straddle two eras -- the post-Beat early 1960s, when establishment values were still strong enough to shape the sensibility of the very works that mocked them, and the late 60s, early 70s, when many writers, artists, and pop musicians found the naive confidence to jettison mainstream cultural
assumptions about what art or entertainment should be. Southern's archive complements other important holdings in the Berg Collection, such as those of William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, and V. S. Pritchett, to name a few. It is also the first collection in the Berg in which the cinema figures so prominently."
Southern, first published in Britain after repeated rejections at home, was known by the late '50s for his short stories and novels, including Flash and Filigree (1958), and The Magic Christian (1959), when director Stanley Kubrick approached him to lend his satiric wit to the screenplay for Dr. Strangelove. Southern collaborated on the screenplay with Kubrick, who based the film on Peter George's book Red Alert, turning out the black comedy that made Dr. Strangelove a cult hit which still resonates, nearly forty years later. The Archive contains numerous materials relating to Dr. Strangelove including index cards outlining the film as a trilogy, and a1974 letter from Southern to Jay Levin about the perceived similarities between Dr. Strangelove and Dr. Henry Kissinger. In 1988, the film was selected by Congress as a cultural treasure by its Film Preservation Board.
The collection includes the original screenplay of Easy Rider, the 1969 counter-culture classic that ushered in the independent film movement. Southern co-authored Easy Rider with Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper, capturing the essence of youthful rebellion against the establishment.
Southern's other screenplays included Barbarella (1968), which starred Jane Fonda as the ingenue sex-pot space alien, and The Magic Christian (1969), on which he collaborated with Peter Sellers, Joseph McGrath, John Cleese, and Graham Chapman. Based on Southern's novel of the same name, The Magic Christian focuses on millionaire and practical joker Guy Grand, exposing and skewering complacency and materialism. The Archive contains the typescript of the novel, as well as unpublished fragments and various drafts of the screenplay.
Among the materials coming to the Berg Collection are numerous unpublished writings including a diary from Southern's years in Europe. The collection also includes materials relating to his novel, Candy (co-authored with hipster poet Mason Hoffenberg), a socio-sexual satire based on Voltaire's Candide, which bears the distinction of being one of only a few books in English banned in France. Commissioned by the notorious French publisher Maurice Girodias, it became a runaway best-seller in the States selling millions of copies throughout the mid and late '60s.
A dark comic sensibility animated Southern's writing. Few conservative values escaped his satiric wit. His favorite targets included politicians, big business, the military, sentimental spiritual seekers, the grossly rich, Hollywood characters of various sorts, and the medical profession. "Where you find smugness, you'll find something worth blasting," he once said. The Archive contains typescripts and manuscripts of novels, short stories, screenplays, and literary fragments; correspondence from a wide variety of writers, musicians, and artists, as well as business correspondence from agents, editors, and publishers; and photographs of literary and pop culture figures.
Born in Alvarado, Texas, Southern began writing satire at age 12, rewriting Edgar Allan Poe stories because, in his words, "they didn't go far enough." His studies at Southern Methodist University were interrupted by World War II. After serving in the army, he continued his studies, graduating with a degree in philosophy from Northwestern University in 1948. He then went to Paris to study at the Sorbonne on the G.I. Bill. His first published work to reach an American audience, a short story, The Sun and the Still Born Stars, appeared in the premier issue of The Paris Review. His first novel, Flash and Filigree, was published in 1958. He was a frequent contributor to The Paris Review, Evergreen Review, and The Nation.
Residing in Geneva with his wife Carol, Southern wrote Candy and The Magic Christian. Returning to the U.S., he settled in East Canaan, Connecticut, and soon after began his collaboration on Dr. Strangelove with Stanley Kubrick and Peter George, launching a successful screenwriting career. Other screenplays followed, including The Loved One (1965), The Collector (1965), The Cincinnati Kid (1965), Barbarella (1968), and End of the Road (1970). In 1965, on the set of The Loved One, he met actress and dancerGail Gerber, who became his life-long companion.
Southern's other books include Red Dirt Marijuana and Other Tastes (1967), Blue Movie (1970), and Texas Summer: A Novel (1991). Materials relating to these works are also in the Archive. In 1981 and 1982 Southern wrote forSaturday Night Live. He taught screenwriting at New York University and Columbia University from the late 1980s until his death in 1995.
Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature
The Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature is one of America's most celebrated collections of first editions, rare books, autograph letters, and manuscripts. It was assembled and presented to The New York Public Library by Dr. Albert A. Berg (1872-1950), famous New York surgeon and trustee of the Library, in memory of his brother, Dr. Henry W. Berg. Both men found relaxation from their medical careers in collecting the works and memorabilia of English and American writers. The original collection, which numbered 3,500 items, has grown through acquisitions and gifts to include some 20,000 printed items and 50,000 manuscripts, covering the entire range of English and American literature. The Berg Collection includes manuscripts by T. S. Eliot, Eugene O'Neill, Edgar Allan Poe, Henry David Thoreau, Mark Twain, W. B. Yeats, Walt Whitman, and many others. The Southern Archive will join the archives of Jack Kerouac, Virginia Woolf, Joseph Conrad, Vladimir Nabokov, and an extensive collection of first and rare editions.
The Terry Southern Literary Trust
The Terry Southern Literary Trust manages the assets and copyrights of Terry Southern. The Co-trustees are Nile Southern, the author's son. Susan Schulman, New York, acts as literary agent for the Trust.
Contact: Sabina Potaczek or Herb Scher 212.221.7676 or 212.704.8600.
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