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A Mencken Chrestomathy

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  1,365 ratings  ·  75 reviews
To read H. L. Mencken is to be confronted with the sad realization that most of what we find in newspapers and journals today is mere sludge. While an Alexander Cockburn or a Christopher Hitchens can churn out a brilliant, at times almost sublime piece of invective, the sad fact is that for all their talent, they are mere polemicists. Mencken, however, was a true contraria ...more
Paperback, 627 pages
Published April 12th 1982 by Vintage (first published April 12th 1949)
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Sarah H.L. Mencken is the who in this. He was an author/Journalist.
Mencken then chose to collect some of his journalistic pieces in a book, which is called …more
H.L. Mencken is the who in this. He was an author/Journalist.
Mencken then chose to collect some of his journalistic pieces in a book, which is called a chrestomathy (similar to an anthology of poems or short stories)(less)

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Mar 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Anglo-Saxon of the great herd is, in many important respects, the least civilized of white men and the least capable of true civilization. His political ideas are crude and shallow. He is almost totally devoid of esthetic feeling. The most elementary facts about the physical universe alarm him, and incite him to put them down.

H.L. Mencken at the Baltimore Sun

I've decided to abandon reading this. Mencken writes extremely well. He uses lots of different words, some obscure (like "chrestomathy"
Jun 11, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: People interested in the American Novel, History, Politics and Humor
Over the years I've read bits and pieces of this collection of bits and pieces. I was most fascinated with it when I was in my early twenties. My father was a big reader and he would, on occasion, ask me to get THE MENCKEN CHRESTOMATHY out of his study so he could read a passage to me and my brothers.
I'm fairly certain Mencken compiled this himself and that it was published shortly before a stroke ended his ability to write. One has to know something about American newspapers and magazines of th
Mark Singer
Aug 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone with an open mind
Recommended to Mark by: no one
"A Mencken Chrestomathy" was originally published in 1948, when H L Mencken was 68, shortly before a stroke ended his writing career. It's my favorite collection of Mencken's writings, possibly because he selected the contents himself. He had been a journalist, literary critic and cultural gadfly for many years, and much of his best work is here. It's perfect bathroom reading!
Jul 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
People need to read more Mencken.

"If, after I depart this vale, you ever remember me and have thought to please my ghost, forgive some sinner and wink your eye at some homely girl."
Aaron Arnold
Apr 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
H. L. Mencken is one of those famous American writers that I'd heard about but never bothered to check out until after I watched The Wire, which is set in his native Baltimore and whose last episode had an epigraph by him. He's a worthy successor to Mark Twain in many ways: a strong background in journalism, biting satire, excellent with language, full of quotable zingers, and a very perceptive chronicler of life in America. The difference is that Mencken never made his mark with the kind of epo ...more
When I first read Mencken, I was about 16, and I hated the middle-class, middle-American, evangelical-heavy culture around me, as well as the ongoing Bush regime -- needless to say, I was a natural audience.

This says something. Because really, despite the fact that he was a middle-aged man, he was still an atheist edgelord teenager with a Nietzsche boner who didn't much care for women and who liked to use words like "chrestomathy," and kept the line between satire and sincerity deliberately vagu
Jun 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
What can I say that critics haven’t been saying about him for a hundred years? Mencken lacerates more nonsense and makes more sense--common and uncommon--than everyone else that has lived or is to be born. Possibly the most respected journalist of all time. Father of muckraking, destroyer of popular myths, creator of unpopular truths. If you don’t like H.L.M. I probably won‘t like you.

There, I bet no one said that before.
Christopher Porzenheim
Feb 06, 2017 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: someone looking to read crisp writing
Recommended to Christopher by: William Zinnsser's On Writing
In Mencken's Chrestomathy his witty writing predictably revolve around three separate but related themes; his belief in the clear superiority of one race over another, his aristocratic elitism, and gleeful advocacy for eugenics.

See this ghoulish passage from his "Eugenic Note:"

The Renaissance, it seems to me, is easily and sufficiently explained by the fact that the Black Death, raging from 1334 to 1351, exterminated such huge masses of the European proletariat that the average intelligence and
Jan 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
One of the all-time great curmudgeons/misanthropes of the early 20th century in the United States - I'm having a hard time thinking how to describe Mencken's writing style, so I'll paste the quotes from this book that I found on Goodreads - at least one of which demonstrates his rather un-PC sensibilities. Nonethelest, for those who can get past that, and appreciate scathing social and political critique written with literary whomphz, Mencken is essential reading - also fans of Isherwood and Mer ...more
Jason Mills
Nov 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: People interested in Things In General
Mencken uses the word Chrestomathy to mean a selection of an author's writings chosen by the author. This is thus a diverse anthology of what HLM presumably regards as his best writing; and certainly it is nothing if not interesting. He skates with merry and cynical insouciance over an impressive range of subjects: politics, history, literature, religion, women, statesmen, etc. Often he is funny; always, acerbic.

Sometimes his opinions go beyond any evidence he presents (indeed, evidence is somet
Sep 01, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: essays
His writing is beautiful and his ideas well thought out and expressed, though I disagree with most of them. I'm giving the book two (perhaps two and a half) stars because, literarily speaking, it was lovely. I can not, however, say that I enjoyed reading it. He is unendingly scathing, caustic, and cynical. The back cover promised "edification and amusement," and while I was occasionally amused, I was certainly not edified or uplifted in any way. I can't imagine how anyone could be uplifted by hi ...more
Oct 30, 2009 rated it really liked it
Has America ever had a greater prose stylist than Henry Mencken? It's not just that each of his sentences has a logical essence to it that builds upon and adds to what came before it. It's that those sentences have a pulsing rhythm that seem to pour forth from him in a steadily increasing tempo, the logic and rhythm always in perfect harmony. The cumulative effect of reading Mencken is not unlike that of listening to Beethoven, whom Mencken adored; he was the most musical of writers (he was an a ...more
Ryan Young
May 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
mencken was a cynical man. he covered the scopes monkey trial with acerbic jabs at southern fundamentalism. he was the original hater. he hates zoos and democracy and jesus and abraham and stupid people and women and italians and irishmen and germans and politicians and teachers and critics and soldiers and soldier's wives and babbits and non-babbits and children and adults and marriage and newspaper editors and newspaper readers and georgia and prohibition and telephones and ceremonies and east ...more
Apr 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
Mencken is a master of metaphor and a wonderful writer, but he is very caustic, and dangerous in large doses. I highly recommend reading Lloyd-Jones' "Spiritual Depression" along side of him.
Jacob Aitken
HL Mencken was utterly reprobate, but it would be hard to find a finer stylist. While his Chrestomathy isn’t strictly history, of course, it is a “feel” for how life was in the 20s and 30s. While Mencken was a wordsmith of the highest skill, he was a 3rd rate philosopher--and that’s putting it nicely. Still, even his incompetence in metaphysics serves a purpose: he shows some of the arguments used against the supernatural today.

Mencken’s materialism comes through in stark colors: life is a “long
Aaron Ventura
Jan 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Mencken is at his pagan best when he is talking about the differences between men and women, bachelors and married folk. There are some laugh out loud lines in this book that make it worth the read. Very Good.
Terry Cornell
Jan 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays
It took me over a year to read all of the articles in this. It really isn't meant to sit and read cover to cover, the book is divided into subject areas, and I would read a few of his essays a week. Mencken was a journalist, essayist, critic, humorist, reviewer--and knowledgeable about a wealth of subject matter. The pieces in this book were selected by Mencken himself, and represent his entire life of writing, on wide ranging scale of topics. Although many of his political writings were publish ...more
Dave Peticolas
Mencken is a curious figure. He was an unabashed elitist with an absolute disdain for much of humanity. He was also a lover of civilization, or at least certain of civilization's highest accomplishments like classical music, literature, and science. He was a devout classist, sometimes marking nine or more gradations of men (usually men) from the first-rate (a very, very select few) down through the ninth-raters and beyond. Mencken's humanity was a pyramid and for him only the tip-top really matt ...more
John Lathers
Aug 12, 2014 rated it liked it
I would not recommend reading from start to finish. There are certainly some gems of genius here, but at least in this version it felt like serious digging between them. Additionally, it would be much more useful for a more cultivated collection with editorial headers to provide additional historical context. I felt many jokes and references were lost on me without such a guide. Recommend reading sections you've selected in advance.
Feb 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
(4.5 stars).If Mencken was a blogger in today's age he would be #1 by any standards. His writings epitomize an era and journalistic style at their best. You may not always agree with his views, but you'll never be bored reading Mencken, and you'll come to relish his one-liners and aphorisms just as those of Churchill, GB Shaw and others.
Chris Comis
For a Nietzschean, Mencken was quite humorous, as well as culturally insightful. Except he suffered many of the same problems Nietzsche suffered from-- a man without a chest, complaining about other men who lacked chests.
Bob Ladwig
Dec 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
Mecken was a polemical journalist of the first rate, although he did not always have the right position he knew how to make his position known. His writing is charming and clever, I am particularly fond of his bold and humourous statements about the nature of government.
Bill Viall
Nov 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
If I had to live with one book, this would be it. I'm a huge Mencken fan, and there's plenty of his outside of this book that I need access to, but this is a great place to start.
Lindsey Doolan
Jul 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: litcrit, humor
This guy is funny. I was bored, but that was my fault.
Matthew W
Oct 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
A Mencken Chrestomathy is choice selection of H.L. Mencken's previously out-of-print writings. That alone is all that one needs to know.
James Violand
Jun 14, 2019 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Absolutely no one.
Shelves: own
Being an avowed contrarian, Mencken’s conceit is hard to fathom. This work is like driving on an unfamiliar country road at night – at a slow speed you are jarred by a rock… then run into a pothole… repeatedly… for miles. Depressing. His word choice is so pedantic it impedes the flow of thought. A humorist seems to have a pessimistic view of man: foibles predominate and define the human condition. But most humor leaves the reader elevated because it makes one happy. Mencken can parlay against wh ...more
Sep 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
It is fun when he is on your side, and a bit if a squirm when he isn't. There is some "fallen out of use" vocabulary that take a little getting used to; using cheese-monger as an insult for example. He loves to call things "buncombe" (old way of saying bull), he refers to people as "poltroons" (cowards), and he likes the word "bounders" (another way of saying cad or dishonorable man). Maybe it's just me. I never did find out exactly what he meant by Peruna. It appears to be a word for potato, so ...more
Lauren Hancock
Mar 11, 2018 rated it it was ok
Meh. “Curmudgeonly” is a good word to describe Mencken’s writing. Too much curmudgeon in one sitting just becomes annoying, so I’d recommend never reading more than a paragraph at a time. Too much whining for the sake of whining and too much “oh the cleverness of me” with not enough to say.
Feb 26, 2019 rated it did not like it
I did not like this book. Very sexist, especially In Defense of Women. On Democracy was just sounded like an ordinary news analysts criticizing about the government. It did not really presented anything new.
Joshua Nuckols
Aug 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Some of his were unforgettable.
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Goodreads Librari...: Incorrect Page Count for ISBN 0394752090 2 15 Oct 28, 2013 09:42PM  
Mencken rocks 3 8 Mar 18, 2013 09:09PM  

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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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