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The Magic Christian
Terry Southern
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The Magic Christian

3.54  ·  Rating Details ·  941 Ratings  ·  127 Reviews
One of the funniest, cruelest & 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 & willing to spare no expense to do it. Leading a life full of practical jokes &am ...more
2 Audio Cassettes, Abridged, 0 pages
Published August 1st 1989 by Dove Books (first published 1959)
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Jun 13, 2016 Nigeyb rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Magic Christian is the book that indirectly got Terry Southern the job of writing “Dr Strangelove” for Stanley Kubrick.

Guy Grand is an eccentric billionaire who uses his money to make fools out of people. Everyone has their price. This short book consists of a series of vignettes that riff on this theme. Some of his more outré ideas raise a chuckle but many are just plain silly. A pretty typical idea is Guy Grand secretly buying a New York advertising agency, and then appointing a pygmy as c
Jun 28, 2011 Evan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An extremely short (around 160 pages) and not quite satisfying farce about a billionaire, Guy Grand, who uses his vast wealth and free time to play elaborate and disgusting pranks on an unsuspecting public. It's a fun concept that never really achieves the sort of dizzying hilarity I would have liked. The idea of an enormous vat of heated sewage full of money that people must debase themselves to retrieve is quite amusing, sort of like an R-rated version of Double Dare. The novel is sporadically ...more
Paul Secor
Read years ago in college. My memories are that it was sophomoric and perhaps a bit obvious, but that parts of it were hilarious. My first thought was that it was dated, but then my mind went to all of the folks who are willing to make fools of themselves and wreck their lives, all to gain a little fame and fortune on reality TV shows these days, and I realized that it's not dated at all.
Some things never change.
The response that Guy Grand sends to the Italian noblewoman when she attempts to boo
Jan 31, 2008 Laura rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Terry Southern is best known for writing the screen play for Dr. Strangelove. It's one of my dad's favorite movies, but I always felt like I was not in the target generation.
I didn't like this book much more than I liked the movie. It's about a man who uses his money to make fools out of people, and while the satirical commentary on greed is sometimes funny, it's never funny enough to be really witty, and never smart enough to be really insightful.
Jun 26, 2016 Tim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humor, fiction, 1960s
Southern was one of the leading lights of the 1960s counter-culture. He wrote the screenplays for "Easy Rider" and "Dr. Strangelove", and a few well-known novels. After reading this, I can understand why he was an icon. His humor was right in tune with (and may very well have been a big influence on) the times--it was sarcastic and pointed, but managed to stay light and irreverant, never descending to meanness or social criticism. Southern was a first-rate humorist and satirist.

This is one of hi
Jan 23, 2009 Lisa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Yes, it's true. This IS one of the sickest, funniest, most original books of all time. You'll laugh your guts out, for all the wrong reasons.
Chance Maree
The Magic Christian is a blatantly dark, absurd, and unrelenting satire about a capitalistic society's relationship to money. Criticism is aimed at those who have wealth and those who seek it.

In principle, I'm in agreement that actions spurred by money can be insane, inhumane--undignified, at best. In a sense, ridicule is warranted. However, despite the satire, not many of the scenes were humorous. Imagining people groping through hot manure and urine to grab cash is gross and sad--not funny. I
Oct 17, 2013 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh, how I love the Magic Christian. 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 spir ...more
Neil Griffin
May 20, 2015 Neil Griffin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you're like me, you've probably wondered why all of the billionaires who own the world these days are so boring with their money. Yachts, planes, islands, and Warhols, but so many opportunities they completely miss: They have carte blanche to fuck with all of our heads with amazing pranks that the rest of us can't pull off due to lack of means. Terry Southern does us all a favor by creating a billionaire whose sole purpose is to spread confusion and chaos everywhere he goes with his money. I ...more

The STOP SMILING Rebels + Outlaws Issue features a 16-page feature by Nile Southern, son of maverick New Journalist and screenwriter Terry Southern. It includes an extensive interview between Terry Southern and Stanley Kubrick, a short story and unpublished letters, and new information on some of Southern's greatest works, including Candy and the screenplay for Dr. Strangelove.

Click for more on the Rebels + Outlaws Issue

Jan 05, 2009 Samford rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Perhaps one of the funniest books I've ever read.
Nov 14, 2009 Maureen rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009
the back cover states: "one of the funniest, cruelest, and most savagely revealing books about american life ever written". for me the cruelty that drives this satirical novel makes the magic christian a daunting experience. for the record i also did not laugh in "there's something about mary" when ben stiller caught his penis and was in pain -- so if that made you laugh uproariously, this may be the book for you.

it is getting two stars because the writing was crisp and i enjoyed the opening tra
Margot Note
Read it because Coop suggested it as one of his favorite books in a Boyd Rice documentary. BTW, Coop once said I had a "cute bottom," one of the highest compliments of my life.
Feb 13, 2015 Bryan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I didn't enjoy this book at all. I saw it listed on a list of some people favorite books of all time and of the funniest books of all time. But it was basically just a billionaire who did something "zany" with his money to prove that the poor people would do anything for money and then ended each chapter with "and it cost him a pretty penny to clean it up." It is supposedly biting satire on how the rich crap on the poor in America, but it might be more subtle to take a bat made of hundred dollar ...more
May 11, 2016 Jim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’d known about the loose film adaptation—an Anglicisation of the novel—but the reason I decided to read the book was discovering that Southern was a big fan of Henry Green and I’d just finished Back. I’ve not seen the film but I have seen a clip where Peter Sellers buys a painting just so he can cut the nose out of it in front of a suitably aghast John Cleese but that’s not in the book although it could’ve easily been because that’s precisely the sort of thing Grand would’ve done.

The book clear
Jul 04, 2011 Jeffrey rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was expecting so much more from the man who wrote the screenplay for Dr. Strangelove, one of my favorite movies. Sadly, this book just hasn't aged as well as Strangelove, and I don't think that my generation would find the practical jokes played by Guy Grand to be all that funny in the world we live in today. It only gets 2 stars because I laughed while reading the chapter on the Magic Christian, but that payoff was to little and came to late for me to recommend this book to anyone else.
Mar 28, 2014 Eric rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
What in the world is up with Terry Southern?? He is hilarious, but perhaps his unique talent is more suited to the cinema (he co-wrote Dr. Strangelove), where he can deliver his punches and the audience can gasp and laugh and convulse & then run out into the real world when it's all over & go about their business with those crazy echoes in their heads. The novel just seems a strange medium for him. This book is one long, painfully prescient crazy joke on our consumer culture, in the mann ...more
An eccentric billionaire uses his money to play elaborate tricks on people. I was disappointed that this never got subversive or disturbing enough to be worthwhile. Just sort of cute and elaborate but never outrageous enough to really enjoy. It just raised my cheapness cockles without satisfying my perverse annoying-ness urges....but it's short so why not.
Nov 20, 2014 Jordan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I bought this book while on a book buying binge in a mammoth bookstore in downtown Los Angeles.

Sidebar: It is called The Last Book Store and in you life in L.A. you should make your way there -- it is fantastic.

At any rate, I did not know anything about the book other than I liked the title and the jacket made it sound like something I would like. Well, I judged a book by it's cover and it paid off. This book was hilarious. Guy Grand, the main character, is a dick.. but, like, a lovable dick.
Jan 26, 2014 Sean rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well, sure, that was kinda funny. A millionaire spends big money on screwing with people and laughing at society. I can see why it might have seemed a bit more outrageous 50 years ago.
Oct 18, 2014 Fernando rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just who do you think you are, Mister! Just what is your game?
Grand's the name, easy-green's the game, said Guy with a twinkle. Play along?
Owain Lewis
I read Southern's Red Dirt Marijuana many years ago and remember it as an edgy, exciting and wickedly funny collection. This, however, came out a bit flat for me. It felt more like a collection of ideas for elaborate pranks thrown loosely into a narrative than a sharply satirical novella. I didn't laugh once - although it's far from great, I seem to remember the Peter Sellers and Ringo Star film did raise a chuckle or two. Maybe if I hadn't seen the film first I'd have found it funnier. Gets a e ...more
Ben Harrison
Mar 15, 2015 Ben Harrison rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Guy Grand was the last of the big spenders and, as such, a great favorite at these restaurants; due to his eccentric behavior during mealtime however, the management always took care to place him at the table as decentralized as possible -- on the edge of the terrace, in a softly lit alcove, or, preferably, at a table entirely obscured by a canopy arrangement which many restaurants, after his first visit, saw fit to have on hand for Guy's return.
When the first course did arrive, an extraordina
Ron Grunberg
Mar 05, 2008 Ron Grunberg rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
"Good Grief, it's Daddy!"

No, that's another of Mr. Southern's masterpieces, one I've yet to re-read after all these years. (It's on order. I speak, of course, of "Candy.")

But nevertheless, here, the Magic Christian. It's a very rare book, in that it's virtually unique, but addresses an issue that might be on many of our minds: what totally unique and cool thing would you do with some extra billions of dollars?

Aren't we a little bored seeing how all the billionaires in our midst conduct themselve
Mariano Hortal
Publicado en

Cuando se lee la biografía de Terry Southern, uno se da cuenta de que fue una de esas figuras inigualables y polémicas que surgen cada cierto tiempo y que, desde luego, dan animación a todas las facetas de su vida.

Adherido de alguna manera a la generación beat, adoptó el rol de adalid de la contracultura americana. Aunque publicó sus primeros libros a partir de 1958, cuando se hizo de verdad famoso fue gracias a Peter Sellers, que le recomendó
Oct 10, 2013 Nina rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a pick by my favorite librarian - Justin at the Roosevelt Island branch. This book made me laugh aloud several times - once while I was reading it in San Francisco in a diner, to the point that I was almost embarrassed for myself. I just couldn't stop. The arrangement of the story didn't draw me in. Flashbacks of scenes from this rich prankster's life that go back and forth with the present day where he's sitting in a drawing room with his two aunts and a pretentious woman with a really ...more
Derek Emerson
Terry Southern is an American novelist, Academy-award nominated screenwriter, and even later did writing for Saturday Night Live. He is praised for his satire and humor, and "The Magic Christian" has no shortage of luminaries singing its praises.

Not this reviewer.

The novel revolves around Guy Grand, a billionaire who likes to spend his money to show how far people will go for money. He says everyone has a price, and he intends to find it. Would you eat a parking ticket for a few thousand dollar
Mar 30, 2010 Steven rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
Published in 1959, Terry Southern could be considered the precursor to Chuck Palahniuk. Though the subject matter is quite expository of American culture and its love of money, it falls a little short in my expectations for satirizing the spirit of the American citizen.

Part of the reason for this is the opening of the book during which Guy Grand essentially tempts people to dive through simmering manure, urine, and blood for a chance at collecting free money. I found myself delightfully repulse
Aug 08, 2011 J.P. rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is a case of truth becoming stranger than fiction. This 1960 novel by Terry Southern hinges on the "outrageous" premise that people will do anything for money---including humiliating themselves in public. The book amounts to a series of episodes proving that premise.

In a nutshell? Billionaire Guy Grand uses his seemingly infinite financial resources to set up ridiculous scenarios---dumping $1 million in cash into a vat of cow manure situated on a Chicago street, with the vat marked "FREE M
A rather facile bit of satire that has not aged well. Basically it's about a rich guy playing some sick games on those without the wherewithal or economic freedom to resist him.

There is a heavy-handed message here and if you are a Progressive you'll love this book but if you are a centrist you'll see the lie and it'll be more than a little hard to swallow.

Luckily at 148 pages it is a short read.

Not recommended

2 out of 5 stars
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Terry Southern was a highly influential American short story writer, novelist, essayist, screenwriter and university lecturer noted for his distinctive satirical style. He was part of the Paris postwar literary movement in the 1950s and a companion to Beat writers in Greenwich Village; he was at the center of Swinging London in the sixties and helped to change the style and substance of Hollywood ...more
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