Mencken's America by H. L. Mencken

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Synopsis

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. This is a collection of work previously only published in newspapers and magazines.
 

About H. L. Mencken

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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. S. T. Joshi is a widely published literary critic and editor.
 
Published February 23, 2004 by Ohio University Press. 264 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

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The flamboyant critic Mencken, one of the most prominent literary figures of his day, once remarked, “Criticism is prejudice made plausible.” Readers seeking the brilliant wit that, in Mencken’s nonfiction, succeeded in unmasking hypocrites, had better skip this short fiction, wherein the a...

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Mencken's unfinished, leisurely memoir, which he set aside in 1948 following a severe stroke and ordered locked away for 35 years after his death, covers his literary apprenticeship, his co-editorship of The Smart Set and his feuds and friendships with Theodore Dreiser, Sinclair Lewis, F.

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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.

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Mencken, 42, courts Sara Haardt, 24, in these private letters, which reveal a seldom-seen considerate side of the cynical editor and critic.

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Mencken (1880-1956) was arguably the greatest journalist of the 20th century, and Rodgers's ( Mencken and Sara: A Life in Letters ) second book on the writer captures him at his best by concentrating on his newspaper work.

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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 hotl...

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