Second Mencken Chrestomathy

Second Mencken Chrestomathy

by H. L. Mencken
     
 

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Before there was any such thing as political correctness, H. L. Mencken was flouting it. He was also cheerfully deriding the precursors of family values and lambasting the guardians of public virtue. This historic new collection is further evidence that Mencken was our most astute, stylish, and biliously funny commentator on the eternal American quackeries.… See more details below

Overview

Before there was any such thing as political correctness, H. L. Mencken was flouting it. He was also cheerfully deriding the precursors of family values and lambasting the guardians of public virtue. This historic new collection is further evidence that Mencken was our most astute, stylish, and biliously funny commentator on the eternal American quackeries.

A Second Mencken Chrestomathy (a word meaning “a collection of choice passages from an author or authors”) was compiled by the sage of Baltimore before he suffered the stroke that ended his career and has only now been retrieved from his private papers by the columnist and Mencken biographer Terry Teachout. Its 238 selections—many of which have never before been published in book form—encompass subjects from Americana (“The Commonwealth of Morons”) to men and women (“Sex on the Stage”) and from criminology (“More and Better Psychopaths”) to the pursuit of happiness (“Alcohol”). The result is Mencken at his most engaging, maddening, heretical, and hilarious.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This book's precursor, A Mencken Chrestomathy (collection), was a bestseller in 1949; this anthology of 238 short excerpts from a range of works, selected and annotated by Mencken but unfinished, lay undisturbed in a Baltimore library until Teachout, an arts columnist for the New York Daily News, found it in 1992, while working on a Mencken biography. Teachout considers Mencken's work still immediate. Indeed, quotable lines abound: ``His public life is an endless series of evasions and false pretenses,'' writes Mencken on ``the politician under democracy.'' Baltimore's bard can be magnificent and maddening in the same passage, damning American idiocies while disparaging immigrants. But what impresses most about this collection is Mencken's breadth; few contemporary writers would assume such a broad brief, writing not only about politics, law and the clergy but also about geography, literature, music and drink. To apply a Mencken sobriquet, he was no lesser eminento. (Jan.)
Library Journal
Selected as a continuation of the original chrestomathy by the Baltimore iconoclast himself before his death, this logically organized sampling of his pre-Depression credos (mostly from The Smart Set and American Mercury) suggests why Mencken was to a whole generation of American youth not just a witty newspaperman with a dazzling style but a force gleefully battering America's deep-rooted Puritan inhibitions. An early champion of Sinclair Lewis, Eugene O'Neill, and Theodore Dreiser, Mencken ridiculed America's institutions, from Rotary Clubs to Harvard professors to the Senate. Sometimes wrongheaded in his judgments, he was unschooled but self-educated in music and politics. His views are sometimes racist and sexist, but they're seldom dull and-in an age of self-conscious "niceness"-never polite. Well worth dipping into.-Charles C. Nash, Cottey Coll., Nevada, Mo.
Gilbert Taylor
Following My Life as Author and Editor" (1993) and Fred Hobson's biography , the Menckenian revival continues apace with this sparkling successor to the first chrestomathy, which was a best-seller in 1949. More than an anthology, the second volume represents pieces (some previously unpublished) that Mencken himself selected and revised before his stroke aborted the project; another proposal to publish came to nought in 1963. Over 60 percent of the 238 items, many from Mencken's magazines Smart Set" and American Mercury", are not available elsewhere, which in itself makes the publication of this title something of a literary event. That it parades again the sage of Baltimore in his incisive, if often irksome, eloquence only confirms him as one of the better belletrists of the century. The job of discriminator of taste exists to be seized in any age, and in the teens and twenties, Mencken extolled and excoriated with idiosyncratic abandon. The books and music he reviewed have faded from memory, but his satirical exfoliations remain fresh, for example, in praise of a bartender's memoir of the bibulous arts or in contempt for a Rotarian's history of his organization. Edited by New York critic Terry Teachout, who is preparing his own biography of the provocateur, this entertaining, exasperating collection captures Mencken's gloomy view of human nature and his bright delight in stripping from it all cant and concealment.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307831118
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
03/20/2013
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
656
Sales rank:
791,443
File size:
2 MB

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