On Politics: A Carnival of Buncombe

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JHU Press, 1996 - Political Science - 377 pages
"Has the art of politics no apparent utility? Does it appear to be unqualifiedly ratty, raffish, sordid, obscene, and low down, and its salient virtuousi a gang of unmitigated scoundrels? Then let us not forget its high capacity to soothe and tickle the midriff, its incomparable services as a maker of entertainment." -- -from On Politics

With a style that combined biting sarcasm with the "language of the free lunch counter," Mencken shook politics and politicians for nearly half a century. The political arena afforded Mencken a special opportunity to showcase his talents. He despised pretentiousness and hypocrisy and found numerous, easy targets among politicians. But while he could be merciless in attacking local and national leaders, Mencken always interspersed his scathing commentaries with entertaining exaggerations and high humor. This collection of seventy political pieces drawn from Mencken's famous Monday columns in the Baltimore Evening Sun during the twenties and thirties shows the "Sage of Baltimore" at his satirical best. While social attitudes may have changed, the value of Mencken's words on American politics offers us a timeless perspective.


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A Carnival of Buncombe FEBRUARY 9 1920
The Clowns in the Ring MAY 12 1920
Campaign Notes SEPTEMBER 13 1920
In Praise of Gamaliel OCTOBER 18 1920
Optimistic Note NOVEMBER 29 1920
Gamalielese Again SEPTEMBER 9 1921
Making Ready for 1924 APRIL 2 1923
Al and the Pastors AUGUST 6 1928
Onward Christian Soldiers AUGUST 24 1928
The Campaign Opens AUGUST 27 1928
Der Wille Zur Macht SEPTEMBER 10 1928
Al in the Free State OCTOBER 29 1928 205
Autopsy NOVEMBER 12 1928
Roosevelt Minor
Little Red Ridinghood DECEMBER 29 1930 232 Little Red Ridinghood DECEMBER 29 1930

The Impending Plebiscite OCTOBER 22 1923
PostMortem JULY 14 1924
Labor in Politics AUGUST 11 1924
Meditations on the Campaign AUGUST 25 1924
The Coolidge Buncombe OCTOBER 6 1924
The Voters Dilemma NOVEMBER 3 1924
Twilight OCTOBER 17 1927
The Coolidge Mystery JANUARY 30 1933
Al Smith and His Chances JULY 5 1927
Al APRIL 23 1928
Real Issues at Last JULY 23 1928
Imperial Purple AUGUST 17 1931
The Impending Carnage MAY 2 1932
The Hoover Bust OCTOBER 10 1932
A Time to Be Wary MARCH 13 1933
Vive Le Roi MAY 1 1933
The Burden of OmnipotenceRoosevelt Alf
The More Abundant Dialectic APRIL 20 1936
After the New Deal SEPTEMBER 28 1936
Coroners Inquest NOVEMBER 9 1936

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About the author (1996)

H. L. Mencken 1880-1956 H. L. (Henry Louis) Mencken was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on September 12, 1880. He considered Maryland to be his 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. Mencken died in his sleep on January 29, 1956. He was interred in Baltimore's Loudon Park Cemetery.

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