H. L. Mencken

Discussion in 'Et Cetera, Et Cetera' started by Calboner, Oct 17, 2010.

  1. Calboner

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    Any fans of the Sage of Baltimore out there? I have been dipping into A Mencken Crestomathy, the collection of excerpts from his writings that he put together late in his life (cres·tom·a·thy: "a collection of choice passages from an author or authors"). The section on "religion" is predictably satisfying. A piece that appears under the title "Immune" (pp. 80–81) sounds a note that we have been hearing a lot recently from Richard Dawkins and other so-called new atheists:

    The piece was originally published in the Baltimore Evening Sun in 1918. Of course, such stuff would be considered far too inflammatory to gain publication in a major newspaper today.
     
  2. JetID

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    Nah, they'll still publish anything in the "Opinions". My Mom still gets the Sun, I think.
     
  3. D_Gunther Snotpole

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    Mencken is definitely a favorite.
    Sad that a man so enamoured of language should spend the last seven years of his life hardly able to read, write or speak, following a stroke.
    Apparently he was a very good amateur pianist who played chamber music with other men every week ... always fortified by beer.
    Very interesting guy, always good for a guffaw as he skewered someone's pious certainties.

     
  4. Calboner

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    Here is the opening of a piece that astonishes me: "The Husbandman" (1924):

    Seems a bit unfair.
     
  5. Calboner

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    :doh: D'oh! It was 1929, not 1918. (I was reading in dim light.) Also, I found, after typing that passage out, that it is included among a large number collected on this page.
     
  6. D_Gunther Snotpole

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    He had many virtues, but fairness or sense of measure were not among them.
     
  7. Calboner

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    It seems that the Library of America has just published a pair of volumes containing the six volumes of Mencken's Prejudices. From a review by Benjamin Schwartz in The Atlantic:

     
  8. Calboner

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    I just discovered that there is a Web publication that bears the name The American Mercury and claims to be the continuation of the journal that Mencken founded in 1924 and edited through 1933. It contains old pieces by Mencken as well as new writings. It seems to be much animated by the founder's political views, which are, to my mind, among his least attractive aspects.
     
  9. midlifebear

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    Back in the first two years of my undergraduate days, Menken was a required read. I was one of many generic English majors of that era who were required by the State of California to spend the first two years reading American writers while taking the occasional grammar and expository writing course. Then we were supposed to spend the last two years reading fiction, poetry, and writings of authors from the U.K.

    The only U.K writer who came close to being as amusing (for me) as Mencken was Evelyn Waugh. But there was much more creativity in English Departments in the late 60s and early 70s than today. Sometimes a course would include a professor's personal selection of his favorite writings by Menken and then we would read A Confederate General in Big Sur followed by the reading and analysis of the poems of Elizabeth Bishop. It may sound as if it was a hodge podge, but there was some serious thought behind connecting authors as varied and often polar opposites in style and humanity in each semester's classes.

    I'm still quite fond of Menken. But I wouldn't want to marry him.
     
    #9 midlifebear, Jan 30, 2011
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2011
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