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A Religious Orgy in Tennessee: A Reporter's Account of the Scopes Monkey Trial

4.15  ·  Rating Details  ·  179 Ratings  ·  22 Reviews
"The native American Voltaire, the enemy of all puritans, the heretic in the Sunday school, the one-man demolition crew of the genteel tradition." -Alistair Cooke on H.L. Mencken

Fiercely intelligent, scathingly honest, and hysterically funny, H.L. Mencken’s coverage of the Scopes Monkey Trial so galvanized the nation that it eventually inspired a Broadway play and the clas
Paperback, 232 pages
Published September 1st 2006 by Melville House
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Three by Tennessee by Tennessee WilliamsThe Samaritan's Pistol by Eric BishopResurrecting Lazarus, Texas by Nathan BarberA Religious Orgy in Tennessee by H.L. MenckenNotes on the State of Virginia by Thomas Jefferson
Name of State (USA): T-W
4th out of 109 books — 20 voters
Curious George by H.A. ReyThe Origin of Species by Charles DarwinPlanet of the Apes by Pierre BoulleTarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice BurroughsGorillas in the Mist by Dian Fossey
Monkey Business
112th out of 118 books — 38 voters

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Mar 06, 2009 Michael rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those who like their journalism on tap
_A Religious Orgy in Tennessee_ is a minefield surrounded by a barbed wire fence in the middle of a volcano on the outskirts of another minefield.

There are only a handfull of writers whose style I would actively attempt to plagiarise if I were not a better person: Henry Louis Mencken is near the top.

Mencken really did not like Bryan in any way; his relationship to the old fundy is very similar to that between Hunter Thompson and Dick Nixon. Most of the reportage herein is confined to vitriolic
May 28, 2015 George rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

“Such obscenities as the forthcoming trial of the Tennessee evolutionist, if they serve no other purpose, at least call attention dramatically to the fact that enlightenment, among mankind, is very narrowly dispersed.”—page 21

Vintage, vitriolic, Mencken: A RELIGIOUS ORGY IN TENNESSEE: A Reporter’s Account of the Scopes Monkey Trial, by H. L. Mencken, Art Winslow offers up the journalist’s first-hand accounts and commentaries on the 1925 trial of John Scopes—for ‘unlawfully’ teaching th
Melville House Publishing
Feb 11, 2008 Melville House Publishing rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Fiercely intelligent, scathingly honest, and hysterically funny, H.L. Mencken’s coverage of the Scopes Monkey Trial so galvanized the nation that it eventually inspired a Broadway play and the classic Hollywood movie Inherit the Wind.

Mencken’s no-nonsense sensibility is still exciting: his perceptive rendering of the courtroom drama; his piercing portrayals of key figures Scopes, Clarence Darrow, and William Jennings Bryan; his ferocious take on the fundamentalist culture surrounding it all—inc
May 17, 2015 Pamela rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In his day, Mencken was the equivalent of Jon Stewart--except with more bite and a larger vocabulary. This collection of his reports of the trial and Bryan's obituary (3 versions) are as fresh and relevant today as when they were written. His wit and ferocity are not at all diminished.

Tip: Don't attempt to start highlighting especially meaningful and witty passages in this book--you will wind up highlighting the entire thing. Trust me on this. I know from experience.
Feb 22, 2015 James rated it really liked it
The subtitle says it all: a reporter's account of the Scopes Monkey Trial (a name, by the way, coined by H.L. himself). There is a particularly wonderful essay in which Mencken describes with anthropological awe the proceedings of a Baptist faith-healing.
Aug 04, 2011 Alana rated it liked it
This book contains a lot of ranting. But as a collection of political editorials from 1925, it's enlightening the extent to which nothing has changed in 85 years.
Michael Lalaian
Apr 25, 2012 Michael Lalaian rated it it was amazing
H.L. Mencken has long been listed among America's most brilliant and infamous journalists and iconoclasts, and after having read this collection of articles it is easy to see why. The writing is superb and not a single sentence goes by that won't make you stop and think. While this collection centers around the articles Mencken wrote during the Scopes Monkey Trial the actual content and ideas explored are both timeless and timely, given today's still very hot debate over creationism being taught ...more
Jan 01, 2016 Peter rated it really liked it
This is Mencken's complete reportage of the 1925 "Scopes Monkey Trial" in Tennessee, in which a teacher was tried for teaching the theory of evolution in a small-town public school. Mencken eloquently, methodically and brutally eviscerates the ignorant and intolerant fundamentalists (most notably William Jennings Bryan) who condemned Scopes, and science in general.
Zach Freeman
Oct 11, 2007 Zach Freeman rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone interested in the ID/evolution drama
Includes all the articles H.L. Mencken wrote during the Scopes Monkey Trial (the basis for the play and movie Inherit the Wind). At the end of the book there's a transcript of Darrow's entire cross-examination of William Jennings Bryant. It's amazing to read, though not as intense as I expected. It's more amazing that the Creationism debate is still going on...
Hanno Willers
Feb 25, 2014 Hanno Willers rated it it was amazing
Viewing the farcical nature of the Scopes Trial through Mencken's lens provides equal doses of hilarity and dismay. His unforgiving style and relentless hammering of the "mountebank" William Jennings Bryan brings a smile to the face of anyone opposed to the public dissemination of ignorance and willful stupidity.
May 12, 2009 Walter rated it really liked it
Scathing. But not really. Reading this is like being at a business meeting and you know what’s going on and no one says it but HL does with the utmost clarity. But he equally loathes falseness of all coats, legal or not. It makes sense the guy from the HBO show The Wire was a newsman from Baltimore.
Mar 07, 2015 Jamie rated it it was amazing
The first work of Mencken I've read, and certainly not the last. His command of the English language and his dripping contempt for stupidity and bullshit were an absolute pleasure to read.
Rick Barnes
Aug 06, 2011 Rick Barnes rated it it was amazing
Its relevance today is startling.
May 27, 2010 Chris rated it it was ok
Despite what the tag says, I didn't finish this book. Mencken seems to be a little in the tone of what Mark Twain once said about Wagner: he has some great moments, but horrible quarters of an hour.

When vitriolic attacks against the pious and ignorant exhaust even me, then you know that something's going on. The religious factions who backed the anti-Darwin law that inspired the Scopes trial certainly represent the worst in the American character. But so too do Mencken's tirades, which are often
May 29, 2013 Christian rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2013
In 1925, John T. Scopes was tried for teaching evolution in Dayton, TN. The small town trial became a national sensation when former presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan agreed to appear for the prosecution and legendary attorney Clarence Darrow took the defense. H. L. Mencken covered the trial for the Baltimore Sun. This volume contains Mencken's reports as well as the transcript of Darrow's examination of Bryan on the stand.

Although the book represents an interesting piece of history,
May 28, 2009 Rick rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
Mencken brings an old school style of reporting, one quite free with subjective assertions and biased judgments, but entertaining and not without its charm. He’s right about the science but that is not an argument he is making because the science is a fact to him and arguing for its rightness would be a waste of effort. No, he’s on the attack against Fundamentalists, country yokels to him who have every right to their ignorance but shouldn’t be allowed to rally behind mountebanks like William Je ...more
Laura Walsh
Excellent selection of articles written by Mencken as he was covering the infamous Scopes 'evolution' trial (and subject of the great film Inherit the Wind). Mencken's critique is both intellectually brilliant and biting!
Jan 18, 2014 Matthew rated it really liked it
Super satisfying to read, though fairly one dimensional because most of the cast of characters are pretty much lost in time. Glad they included a transcript of the final exchange between Bryan and Darrow... You can really see how ugly things got in the courtroom. That, and Menken's hilarious depiction of the fundamentalists make this the best book i read all year.
Mar 31, 2008 Christopher rated it it was amazing
Mencken's vitriol is a wonderful departure from the current attempts at "objective journalism" in today's media. He's a pure bastard in all the right ways, turning himself into part of the struggle (whether or not it's completely accurate) and his opposition into empty demagogues (whether or not it's completely warranted). Without Mencken and the Scopes trial, we wouldn't have Hunter S. Thompson or Warren Ellis.
Mel Hogg
A great overview of the trial. Mencken is delightfully scathing. Darrow's cross examination of Bryan was not as damaging as I expected, but still amusing. I can't believe this argument is still going on more than 75 years after the Scopes trial...
Craig J.
A Religious Orgy in Tennessee: A Reporter's Account of the Scopes Monkey Trial by H.L. Mencken (2006)
Dave Peticolas
Nobody skewers the rubes like Mencken. Scopes himself described the trial as Mencken's show.
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Henry Louis "H.L." Mencken became one of the most influential and prolific journalists in America in the 1920s and '30s, writing about all the shams and con artists in the world. He attacked chiropractors and the Ku Klux Klan, politicians and other journalists. Most of all, he attacked Puritan morality. He called Puritanism, "the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy."
At the height o
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