Assuming that we are to use the word in a derogatory sense, any honest definition of pornography must be subjective. For me it reduces itself to that which causes me disgust. (There is also a good kind of pornography, like Fanny Hill, which may give pleasure.) In order fully to appreciate the satire on “bad” pornography in Terry Southern and Mason Hoffenberg’s Candy, it is helpful to dip into some of the aids to erotic enjoyment which are currently filling the bookstores. One of the most notable of these works is Sex and the Single Man by Dr. Albert Ellis, author of an impressive number of studies including the wellknown Sex Without Guilt, The American Sexual Tragedy, and A Guide to Rational Living. Dr. Ellis’s most recent work is an elaborate detailed training manual which pits the bachelor trainee (“you”) against a hypothetical foe known as “your girlfriend.” Most of the tactics in seduction are elementary, and the physiological terrain described by Dr. Ellis is old and trampled ground. The book’s real distinction lies in its style; and since the style, among sexologists as among poets and novelists, is the measure of the man, let Dr. Ellis speak for himself: “Coitus itself can in some instances be unusually exciting and arousing. If your girlfriend is not too excitable at a certain time, but is willing to engage in intercourse, she may become aroused through doing so, and may wind up by becoming intensely involved sexually, even though she was relatively passive when you first started to copulate.”
It is this kind of mechanical howtoism, with its clubfooted prose and its desolating veterinary odor, that constitute the really prurient writing of our time. It is pornographic and disgusting, and it is one of the major targets of Candy in its satirical foray against sickbed, sex, both scientific and literary. Candy was first published in 1957 in Paris by the Olympia Press, which concealed the authors’ names under the swank nom de plume of “Maxwell Kenton.” Although by no stretch of the imagination is Candy an obscence novel, a bizarre feature of the book’s history is that it became—along with a number of others of the Olympia list—one of the few works in English ever to be banned by the French government on the grounds of indecency. This is a circumstance which might make the book appear positively satanic were it not for the fact that Candy is really a droll little sugarplum of a tale and a spoof on pornography itself. Actually, considering its reputation, it may be surprising to discover that much of the book is not about sex at all. At any rate, there was no official reaction in France when, in an evasive maneuver, Candy’s publisher continued to issue it under the name of Lollipop. Now it comes to us in the United States from Putnam, unexpurgated, and with the real names of the authors revealed. Let us hope that Candy, the adorable college-girl heroine of the book,…
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