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Happy Days: Mencken's Autobiography: 1880-1892 (H. L. Mencken's Autobiography #1)

4.17 of 5 stars 4.17  ·  rating details  ·  65 ratings  ·  8 reviews
With a style that combined biting sarcasm with the "language of the free lunch counter," Henry Louis Mencken shook politics and politicians for nearly half a century. Now, fifty years after Mencken’s death, the Johns Hopkins University Press announces The Buncombe Collection, newly packaged editions of nine Mencken classics: Happy Days, Heathen Days, Newspaper Days, Prejud ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published August 28th 2006 by Johns Hopkins University Press (first published 1940)
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HAPPY DAYS. (1940). H. L. Mencken. ****.
Mencken (1880-1956) had published a fragment of his memoirs in The New Yorker, and was encouraged by their editor to expand the writing to book form. He did better than that; he expanded the work to three separate titles, of which this is the first. All of the titles are available in the recent publication of The Days Trilogy from The Library of America because I feel the pressure of a pile of library books that may not allow me to cover all three in time.
Thorne Clark
This is a pretty remarkable book, particularly because it is presented as nothing more than a rambling recollection loosely arranged into topical groupings. Like most memoirs written by white men before, say, the eighteen- or nineteen-nineties, it is replete with jaw-dropping statements about race and other races (in the form of both the expected prejudices, as well as one or two intimations of a jarring broad-mindedness). This made the book difficult to appreciate objectively, and generally add ...more
Mencken's childhood memories are wonderful for two chief reasons: as excavations of the lost world of comfortable German-American Baltimoreans of the 1880s, and for the incredible vigor that HLM got into his prose.

HLM is, I think, more notable for his talent as a sentence-crafter than to any claims to wisdom, and we are treated to some beauties:
On his baby fat: "This adiposity passed off as I began to run about, and from the age of six onward I was rather skinny, but toward the end of my twentie
Great reading.

A man who knew what words meant describing scenes of his happy and prosperous childhood. Told with wit and ironic nostalgia, but most of all told with unblinking honesty.

Fair Warning: What will appall those who have not dipped before into the rich stream of benevolent racism that essentially defines American Letters from the Colonial Period straight through to the Civil Rights Era, is how casually offensive racial and ethic tags are dropped into a story, sprinkled in by the author
Believe it or not Mencken actually had a happy childhood, and he records it here. His humor is all there minus the biting criticism. His vocabulary is amazing (had to look up a lot of words) but the way he puts words together is so delightfully creative it caused me to smile or laugh at nearly every page. And it gives a very instructive picture of what growing up in nineteenth century Baltimore was like. Delightful read.
Robert Maier
Finished it and loved it. Not as densely written as Notes on Democracy, so an easier, lighter read. Can't wait to see what unfolds. I bought it used on line, and turned out to be a first edition. Unfortunately unsigned, but nice to hold it. It's in great condition for 73 years old. A dazzling portrait of Baltimore seen through a young boy's eyes at the end of the 19th century. Written like poetry.
Paul Bauer
A surprisingly warm and affectionate account of his childhood. Perhaps the most entertaining childhood memoir I've read.
this was a lot better then the Choice Of Days collection, which only has about a third of each of the Days books.
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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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Other Books in the Series

H. L. Mencken's Autobiography (3 books)
  • Newspaper Days, 1899-1906 : Volume 2 of Mencken's Autobiography
  • Heathen Days: Mencken's Autobiography: 1890-1936
A Mencken Chrestomathy The Vintage Mencken American Language In Defense Of Women Notes on Democracy

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