Candy - revisiting novelists' sickly sweet 1950s pornographic romp

It's plotless, tacky, borderline desperate, and yet its eponymous heroine's romps - from one horny, scheming devil to the next - are never dull

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 March, 2015, 8:30pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 March, 2015, 8:30pm

by Terry Southern and Mason Hoffenberg
Olympia Press


This potboiler's title signals the saccharine naivety and sensuality embodied in its hapless heroine who becomes involved in all kinds of lewdly ridiculous exploits.

The biggest joke is that critics treated the tale of sickly sweet Candy Christian as much more than comic confection.

"One guy wrote a review about how Candy was a satire on Candide. So right away I went back and reread Voltaire to see if he was right," co-author Mason Hoffenberg told Playboy. "That's what happens. It's as if you vomit in the gutter, and everybody starts saying it's the greatest new art form, so you go back to see it, and, by God, you have to agree."

Candy becomes embroiled in a string of absurdly sensuous situations, largely driven by a vain desire to help others. Alas, most of the men the hot young airhead meets just want to abuse her. Dodging the advances of her randy philosophy teacher, Professor Mephesto, Candy heads to her father's house, where she plans to let the family gardener deflower her.

But her creepily protective father intervenes and, in the ensuing scuffle, suffers a fractured skull.

When Candy visits him, the plot becomes even seedier because of her Uncle Jack, who pounces on her. A nurse drags him off. Candy flees only to enter the lair of a screwball scientist who is researching the impact of masturbation.

After several more queasy twists, Candy tries to redeem herself by embarking on a spiritual journey, only to fall under the spell of a guru, who proves to be a charlatan keen to prey on her like everyone else.

Banned in the US in the 1950s, Candy was first published in Paris. Hoffenberg and fellow author Terry Southern confessed they wrote it for the money, knowing Olympia Press boss Maurice Girodias was in the market for pulsating pornography.

Candy was made into a 1968 film directed by Christian Marquand, a screen god who had had sex with French bombshell Brigitte Bardot. Another movie was made by Gail Palmer in 1978.

Playboy listed it among its "25 sexiest novels ever written", defining it as a "young heroine's picaresque travels, a kind of sexual pinball machine that lights up academia, gardeners, the medical profession, mystics and bohemians".

It's plotless, tacky, borderline desperate, and yet Candy's romps - from one horny, scheming devil to the next - are never dull.