Mencken's America

Overview

Long famous as a political, social, and cultural gadfly, journalist and essayist H. L. Mencken was unafraid to speak his mind on controversial topics and to express his views in a deliberately provocative manner. Mencken was prolific; much of his best work lies buried in the newspapers and magazines in which it originally appeared. Mencken's America is a sampling of this uncollected work, arranged to present the wide-ranging treatise on American culture that Mencken himself never wrote. The core of the book is a ...
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Overview

Long famous as a political, social, and cultural gadfly, journalist and essayist H. L. Mencken was unafraid to speak his mind on controversial topics and to express his views in a deliberately provocative manner. Mencken was prolific; much of his best work lies buried in the newspapers and magazines in which it originally appeared. Mencken's America is a sampling of this uncollected work, arranged to present the wide-ranging treatise on American culture that Mencken himself never wrote. The core of the book is a series of six articles on "The American" published in the Smart Set in 1913 and 1914. Never before reprinted, they embody the essence of Mencken's views on the deficiencies of his countrymen. Bracing, infuriating, and pungent, H. L. Mencken's writings retain their relevance even after the passage of nearly a hundred years, cogently discussing issues with which Americans of the twenty-first century are still wrestling. Sagaciously edited by S. T. Joshi, one of the country's foremost Mencken scholars, Mencken's America is a superb example of America's turning the looking glass on itself.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
H.L. Mencken was a man who firmly believed that "[m]en are surely not at their worst when they say what they actually think, even if it is shocking to their neighbors," and 80 years after some of these essays originally appeared in newspapers and magazines, his writings are still hard to resist. Mencken's wit and breadth of knowledge are apparent throughout this collection, but he is at his best and most timely when his targets are politics, the American character and the "militant Puritanism" that, according to him, shapes them both. His skewering of democracy as a system "this fundamental assumption that a group of idiots, if only its numbers be large enough, is wiser and more virtuous than any conceivable individual who is not an idiot" is well reasoned enough to provoke a weeklong debate about such favorite (and still hotly controversial) Mencken topics as big government, mob rule and the legislation of morality. A few of the essays included here do not hold up well, such as "The American: His Language"; others, like Mencken's essays about Baltimore and San Francisco, now read like charming period pieces rather than insightful social commentary. Still, the variety in this collection (including a prescient piece on the emergence of the independent film industry) highlights just how many things about America and Americans made H.L. Mencken laugh, wax indignant or at least pick up his pen. (Feb.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Journalist Henry Louis Mencken (1880- 1956) was a sharp critic of American life and politics whose views were particularly influential during the 1920s when railing against small-mindedness and Puritanism became the new literary trend. During a career that spanned almost half a century, Mencken took delight in exposing the shortcomings of just about everything, from religion and politics to Hollywood and literary criticism. Although he is widely remembered for his work at the Baltimore Sun, his journalistic talents stretched far beyond that. For example, from 1914 to 1923 he coedited the Smart Set, which became a leading commentary on American life. This compilation of essays, edited by Joshi, who previously edited several volumes of Mencken's writings, gathers Mencken's newspaper columns-many never before published in book form-and places at the core a series of six articles on "The American," which were published in the Smart Set in 1913 and 1914. While so much of what Mencken wrote is widely available, his fans are sure to treasure the pieces collected here. Those new to Mencken may find them a bit tedious at times. No matter how you feel about this great figure in American literary life, there certainly are very few like him today. Recommended for all literary collections.-Ron Ratliff, Kansas State Univ., Manhattan Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780821415320
  • Publisher: Ohio University Press
  • Publication date: 1/15/2004
  • Pages: 264
  • Sales rank: 1,139,815
  • Product dimensions: 8.90 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction
A Note on This Edition
Prologue: On Living in the United States 1
1 The American: A Treatise 7
2 The American Landscape 71
3 American Politics, Morality, and Religion 113
4 American Art, Literature, and Culture 147
Epilogue: Testament 185
Notes 191
Glossary of Names 203
Sources 235
Index 237
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