Readers will find edification and amusement in his estimates of a variety of Americans—Woodrow Wilson, Aimee Semple McPherson, Roosevelt I and Roosevelt II, James Gibbons Huneker, Rudolph Valentino, Calvin Coolidge, Ring Lardner, Theodore Dreiser, and Walt Whitman. Those musically inclined will enjoy his pieces on Beethoven, Schubert, and Wagner, and there is material for a hundred controversies in his selections on Joseph Conrad, Thorstein Veblen, Nietzsche, and Madame Blavatsky.
THE WINDOW OF HORRORS, by H.L. Mencken
THE FOOTSTEPS ON THE STAIRS, by William J. Wintle
THE RÔLE OF THE WEIRD, by Tom Worth
THE HAUNTED BURGLAR, by W.C. Morrow
VALLEY OF THE STORM KING, by Joseph J. Millard
THE MAN IN THE MIRROR, by Lillian B. Hunt
SATAN'S FACELESS HENCHMEN, by Steve Fisher
BAT MAN, by Victor Rousseau
DOUBLE IN DEATH, by Gerald Vance
CYANIDE AND OLD LACE, by Emil Petaja
THE HOUSE OF FIRE, by Robert Moore Williams
THE MAN WHO LOST HIS HEAD, by Thomas Burke
DEATH’S BRIGHT HALO, by Robert Leslie Bellem
FINISHED BY HAND, by H.B. Hickey
THE COUNTERFEITER, by Robert Moore Williams
THE ADVENTURE OF GOSNELL, by George T. Wetzell
MONKEY ON HIS BACK, by Charles V. De Vet
AGREE -- OR DIE, by Rufus King
DEATH OVER CHICAGO, by Robert Moore Williams
HOPE CHEST, by Talmage Powell
TUNE ME IN, by Fletcher Flora
GRAMP, by Charles V. De Vet
POISON PEN, by George T. Wetzel
YOU KNOW WILLIE, by Theodore R. Cogswell
THE ULTIMATE PREY, by Talmage Powell
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Suffice it to say that here is one more generous sampling of the old Mencken battling fearlessly for the freedom and dignity of the individual and for the general decencies of life and attacking all that seems fundamentally hostile to man: government, organized religion, professional philosophers, and pedagogues above all. It shows his restless and inquiring mind ranging over many of the problems that beset all of us who ever take time out to think, all in his unmatchable style, which, however much it crackles, has the supreme virtue—which Henry always found in his own great model, Thomas Henry Huxley—that of never leaving you in doubt of its meaning.
Read the preface and note that this book is precisely what its title suggests; it consists of hundreds of notes—some only a few lines in length, some running to several pages, all reflecting a rigorous and exhilarating mind and personality. It may be a long time before another like him crosses our path.
H. L. Mencken is perhaps best known for his scathing political satire. But politicians, as far as Mencken was concerned, had no monopoly on self-righteous chest-thumping, deceit, and thievery. He also found religion to be an adversary worthy of his attention and, in Treatise on the Gods, he offers some of his best shots, a choreographed cannonade.
Mencken examines religion everywhere, from India to Peru, from the myths of Egypt to the traditional beliefs of America's Bible Belt. He compares Incas and Greeks, examines doctrines, dogmas, sacred texts, heresies, and ceremonies. He ranges far and wide, but returns at last to the subject that most provokes him: Christianity. He reviews the history of the Church and its founders. "It is Tertullian who is credited with the motto, Credo, quia absurdum est: I believe because it is incredible. Needless to say, he began life as a lawyer." Mencken is no less interested in the dissidents: "The Reformers were men of courage, but not many of them were intelligent." Against the old-time religion of fellow countrymen, Mencken posed as a figure of old-time skepticism, and he reaped the whirlwind. Controversial even before it was published in 1930, Treatise on the Gods remains what its author wished it to be: the plain, clear challenge of honest doubt.
Perhaps America's foremost literary stylist and most mordant wit, Mencken's most engaging writing told about his own life and experiences. In Mencken on Mencken, veteran Mencken editor and scholar S. T. Joshi has assembled a hefty collection of the best of Mencken's autobiographical pieces that have not appeared previously in book form. These forty-four selections cover a wide variety of topics ranging from incidents from Mencken's everyday life to reflections on friends and colleagues to his careers as author, journalist, and editor, to his travels abroad.
As a journalist in Baltimore, Mencken encountered many unusual characters: a professional mourner hired by a beer distiller, a wagon driver who slept through the great Baltimore fire of 1904, a confirmed bachelor who left town to avoid the clutches of a predatory widow. He provides accounts of literary figures he knew, such as Theodore Dreiser, and ruminations on his work at the Baltimore Sun and as editor for the magazines Smart Set and the American Mercury.
In an essay titled "What I Believe," he eschews humor and writes straightforwardly of his longtime scorn for the idea of religion, and in his journalist mode he reflects on a half-century of attending political conventions, drawing on his vast inside knowledge to savage the corruption and incompetence of the political class. A superb travel writer, Mencken gives us a rollicking account of beer-drinking in Munich, astute observations of political unrest in Cuba, and carefully drawn scenes from a long tour he and his wife made of the Mediterranean in 1934.
Joshi has thoroughly annotated the pieces and also compiled an extensive glossary of names and terms that Mencken mentions. Mencken on Mencken offers a fully rounded self-portrait of one of America's most colorful personalities and most extraordinary men of letters.
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.
H.L. Mencken, America's greatest journalist and critic, wrote Notes on Democracy over 80 years ago. His time, the paranoid and intolerant years of World War I, Prohibition and the Scopes trial, is strikingly like our own. Notes isn't just a blast from the past, but also a perceptive and unsentimental report on contemporary life.