For the past week, I read Candy by Terry Southern. My interest came out of its controversial background upon its release in 1959. Sex/pornography in America and how the puritanical hypocrisy wraps around it humors me. So, I wanted to read what the fuss was about. While I am glad that I crossed another “classic” off my reading list, I left bewildered.
Candy Christian is the novel’s protagonist. She is blond, shapely, and beautiful, and possesses an air about her that makes men want her, or more importantly, need her sexually. Her destiny in this merry go round of sexuality forged on her birthday – Valentine’s Day. Her dad attempts to shield her from things, but has no idea of her “nature”. She is his little girl and he wants to keep her that way. However, she goes on a myriad of improbable sexual misadventures with many men throughout the novel (so, Daddy failed his mission) until she seeks spiritual enlightenment with unexpected twist ending. This satirical book is based on Volitaire’s Candide, which I haven’t read, and I assume the satire is based on the growing gratuitous pornographic elements appearing in books and other artistic avenues like the men’s magazine, Playboy.
The problems I encountered with this book are many. First, Candy is an annoying character. Her naivete is vomit-inducing, and I lost count of how many times my eyes rolled back with each chapter. I am far-removed from any prudish behavior. Yet, I found myself disgusted by how idiotic she is. No one needs her. Each man took advantage of her and she allowed many things to happen. Perhaps Southern’s viewpoint was the juxtaposition of America’s naivete toward sex and pornography in general. That is my take on it; but, I would rather continue my annoyance at Candy. Second, the sexual misadventures have more known names today – rape, incest, and molestation. I believe she only had one sexual moment that could construed as consensual. I guess Southern did not want sex or pornography forced upon America rather than let it flow naturally. Finally, the beginning of the book starts strong and a lot of its strength belongs to Aunt Livia. She is crazy, but enjoyable, as she says what is on her mind, whether it is antisemitic or sexually-charged and inappropriate among her husband’s colleagues. Unfortunately, she could not save the entire book as it began to meddle in the middle, and by the final chapters, I welcomed its end.
To summarize this book, the popularity of this book was based off the sheer no-holds barred sexuality presented, not the story itself, which is extremely lost. It became a jumbled mess by the final word. With that, I can say Southern wins ultimately. He saw the demise of American society as it obsessed over sexuality for sex and profit. So much that he wrote a story that made no sense, but ravished itself in the sexually absurd, which created the popularity and pop-culture status. He nailed America 2014 perfectly! Too bad he passed away nineteen years ago. I would have bought him a drink for his genius outlook.