June 15, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT

Now Dig This

Current Status
In Season
We gave it an A-

Terry Southern was a contemporary of beatniks, chum of literati, and cowriter of Dr. Strangelove–a dapper freak with a wide range. His death in 1995 at age 71 silenced a voice electric with street rhythm and royal with offhand intellection. As such, Now Dig This (Grove, $25)–a ragbag of journalism, correspondence, and oddities–is stuffed with strange and silken scraps. The tender friend who pens an homage to the poet Frank O’Hara is also the unfathomable prankster who writes to Ms. on the etiquette of orgasm and its relation to women’s lib, concluding, “There is a considerable difference…between a show of passion and the rutting of a wildcat.” A proposed scene for Eyes Wide Shut finds him suggesting that Stanley Kubrick do his portentous opus as a broad comedy. And though Southern’s 1972 article on the Rolling Stones is a half-vapid letdown, his vivid piece on the 1968 Democratic convention compensates with a striking account of street-fightin’ men.

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