A Second Mencken Chrestomathy

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A.A. Knopf, 1995 - Reference - 491 pages
2 Reviews
This Wonderful Sequel to the best-selling A Mencken Chrestomathy of nearly half a century ago is full of the iconoclastic common sense that marked H. L. Mencken's astonishing career as the premier American social critic of the twentieth century. Gathered by Mencken himself before he died in 1956, this second chrestomathy ("a collection of selected literary passages, " with the accent on the tom) contains writings about a variety of subjects - politics, war, music, literature, men and women, lawyers, brethren of the cloth. Some of his essays have beguiling titles - "Notes for an Honest Autobiography, " "The Commonwealth of Morons, " "Le Vice Anglais, " "Acres of Babble, " "Hooch for the Artist." All of them are a pleasure to read, and we are reminded that what Mencken wrote in the early years of this century remains applicable to a very different America.

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A second Mencken chrestomathy

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

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 ... Read full review

Review: A Second Mencken Chrestomathy

User Review  - Nate - Goodreads

Mencken was one of the funniest and most articulate American essayists and journalists. Great writing even if it is extremely bigoted. Read full review

Contents

Americana
3
The Pushful American
9
The Metaphysic of Rotary
17
Copyright

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About the author (1995)

H.L. Mencken was born in Baltimore, Maryland, a city he considered home despite his many years in New York. As a child he attended Professor Friedrich Knapp's Institute, a private school for children of German descent. He completed his secondary education at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, from which he graduated at the age of 16. Mencken wanted to be a writer but was obligated to work in his father's cigar factory. When his father died suddenly in 1899, Mencken immediately sought a job at the Baltimore Herald. Through he began with no experience in journalism, he quickly learned every job at the newspaper and at age 25 became its editor. Mencken went on to build himself a reputation as one of America's most brilliant writers and literary critics. His basic approach was to question everything and to accept no limits on personal freedom. He attacked organized religion, American cultural and literary standards, and every aspect of American life that he found shallow, ignorant, or false - which was almost everything. From the 1920's until his death, Mencken's sharp wit and penetrating social commentary made him one of the most highly regarded - and fiercely hated - of American social critics. He was later memorialized in the dramatic portrait of the cynical journalist in the play and film Inherit the Wind. Shortly after World War I, Mencken began a project that was to fascinate him for the rest of his life: a study of American language and how it had evolved from British English. In 1919 he published The American Language: A Preliminary Inquiry into the Development of English in the United States. To this and his publisher's surprise, the book sold out quickly; its wit and nonscholarly approach attracted many readers who would not normally buy a book on such a subject. In 1936, a revised and enlarged edition was published, and in 1945 and 1948, supplements were added. The work shows not only how American English differs from British English but how the 300 year American experience shaped American dialect. Thus the book, still considered a classic in its field, is both a linguistic and social history of the United States.

Terry Teachout is a member of the editorial board of the New York "Daily News". His writing appears in "The American Scholar, Commentary, High Fidelity, Musical America, National Review, The New Criterion, The New Dance Review, and The Wall Street Journal.

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