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A Mencken Chrestomathy

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  1,266 Ratings  ·  64 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
Shelves: hlmencken
"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!
Aaron Arnold
Apr 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2010
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
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."
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
Shelves: 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
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.
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.
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.
Chris Comis
Jun 08, 2009 rated it liked it
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Joshua Nuckols
Aug 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Some of his were unforgettable.
Jan 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
It was three incidents that brought me to read H.L. Mencken: (1) Christopher Hitchens spoken very warmly and defensively about him (2) I'd read he was the heir to Mark Twain and perhaps the greatest prose writer of the 20th century and (3) Murray Rothbard said libertarians will love him. After, nay, while, reading this book, I understand much better Hitchens' regard for him, Rothbard's recommendation of him, and, though I'm certainly unequipped to answer his heredity or place among prose writers ...more
Nov 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
Smart and funny collection.

19..animal vigor
32..intermezzo on monogamy
41..war with women
63..adultery is one of nature's devices for keeping the lowest orders of men from sinking to the level of downright simians; sometimes for a few brief years in youth, their wives and daughters are comely...and now and then the baron drinks more than he ought.
...double standard explained
126..cops and their ways...the 3rd degree
145..government: a conspiracy against the superior man
Gerry Germond
Apr 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literature
This 627-page tome may also be called "Mencken's Greatest Hits." It is a collection of essays or articles chosen by Himself. H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) was an early twentieth century author, columnist, critic, and essayist. The selections here, 241 of them, cover the gamut of human endeavor. He skewers government, religion, science, the arts, history, education, and the major events and personalities of his time with abandon. He may well be called a curmudgeon (and he's carried in The Portable Cur ...more
May 11, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
H.L Mencken is one of my favorite authors because he is honest in his assessment of institutions and humanity in general. A curmudgeon at heart, Mencken explores human nature and the consequences of that questionable trait. Chrestomathy is a collection of short essays, thoughts, that Mencken took from several of his full length collections. A journalist, a philosopher, and a social commentator, Mencken plays the parts well. The essays are clear and hold no punches.

If you are a serious cynic this
Allison Floyd
I barely skimmed the surface of this one, so I will simply say that a.) it's always comforting to come across folks who are ten billion times the cantankerous malcontent that you could ever hope to be and b.) it's inspiring (and simultaneously disheartening, since the odds are slim) to think to oneself that if only one could channel one's virulence with such verbal dexterity, one might be on to a promising career. Of course, this was an era in which Perez Hilton had yet to become a household nam ...more
Jim Morris
May 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: vintage-mencken
This is not a book to sit down and read straight through. It's a book to savor a piece or two before bed, or in an idle moment. Mencken is a great and idiosyncratic stylist, and really fun to read. I became a fan from reading his obit in 1955, as a college freshman, and promptly bought an anthology of his writings, though not this one. I'm slowly working my way through this book, with great pleasure. I'm not as cynical as I was at nineteen, so I disagree with a lot of it. But that doesn't dimini ...more
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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
More about H.L. Mencken...
“Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.” 325 likes
“Conscience is the inner voice that warns us somebody may be looking.” 209 likes
More quotes…