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The Magic Christian

3.46  ·  Rating details ·  1,122 ratings  ·  161 reviews
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 ma ...more
Paperback, 160 pages
Published June 11th 1996 by Grove Press (first published 1959)
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3.46  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,122 ratings  ·  161 reviews

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This one didn't sit well with me.

Guy Grand is fabulously wealthy, and his favorite hobby is testing out his theory that there is nothing so degrading or so distasteful that someone won't do it for money. Yes, I get it - it's a satire on American culture, and our obsession with power and money. Maybe it's just me who doesn't find the idea of people wading into a vat of sewage to collect cash to be utterly hilarious. Perhaps I'm the only one who's not amused by a rich asshole who enjoys fucking w
Jun 28, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Lisa Reads & Reviews
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
Jun 12, 2016 rated it liked it
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
Jan 31, 2008 rated it it was ok
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.
Mar 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Michael Fuller
Oct 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Perhaps one of the funniest books I've ever read.
Jan 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 20, 2009 rated it did not like it
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
Jun 04, 2009 added it

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

Troy S
Dec 03, 2017 rated it it was ok
I did pick this book up and start cracking up almost immediately as I read the first page. And I do find New York hot dog humor hilarious. And of course, high-culture dwellers in low-brow scenarios never misses the mark of mirth. But after a while (a very short while, too) the strange, nefarious, deranged philosophy that Terry Southern seems to harbor creeps out. At first it makes you nauseous, but then you think about it more and more and you roll your eyes. At the bottom of this novel sits the ...more
Ron Grunberg
Mar 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Simon Robs
May 01, 2016 rated it liked it
This light confection can be read at a sitting, and for that I'll not bash so silly a premise as a goofy billionaire concocting equally silly scenarios whereby he gets people to humiliate themselves for cash rewards while he Guy Grand (silly name too) revels in the debased human nature on display. "The Magic Christian" is a Titanic-like ship of Guy's fitted out with tricks & treats on a grand scale but really this whole silly book should rather have gone down with the ship which didn't. Tom ...more
Jun 24, 2011 rated it it was ok
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.
Nov 09, 2009 added it
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.
Jan 24, 2014 rated it liked it
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 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
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?
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.
May 11, 2016 rated it liked it
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
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
Eric Uribares
Me gustó la riqueza imaginativa de la(s) historias. Es una novela ajena a muchas de las preocupaciones formales y estilísticas de sus contemporáneos. Breves excentricidades que no aspiran a seguir las reglas de relato convencional. Podrían verse como episodios de una serie donde domina el absurdo.
Abbie Feldman
Feb 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
HILARIOUS laugh out loud satire.
Dec 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
high hilarity

what wont people do for cash?

married men pay the most!
Jan 02, 2019 rated it did not like it
Apparently this guy wrote the screenplay to Dr Strangelove, and this is basically novelized vignettes that could be episodes of Punk'd. Maybe it could have been funny on the screen, but certainly was not on the page.

fwiw, the titular "Magic Christian" was a "luxury" cruise ship which pranked its rich clientele.
Derek Emerson
May 04, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2013-books-read
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
Aug 01, 2011 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
Mar 27, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
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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