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

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  223 Ratings  ·  28 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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Jan 20, 2009 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
Aug 01, 2013 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 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 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.
Sep 13, 2008 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.
Jul 27, 2011 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
Dec 11, 2011 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
Sarah  Perry
May 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
" Once he had one leg in the White House and the nation trembled under his roars. Now he is a tinpot pope in the Coca-Cola belt and a brother to the forlorn pastors who belabor half-wits in galvanized iron tabernacles behind the railroad yards. His own speech was a grotesque performance and downright touching in its imbecility. Its climax came when he launched into a furious denunciation of the doctrine that man is a mammal. It seemed a sheer impossibility that any literate man should stand up i ...more
Mar 12, 2013 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 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...
May 12, 2009 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.
Stewart Sternberg
Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was ok
Mencken was a brilliant and cutting man, but his opinion pieces on the Scopes trial are not necessarily his best work. Perhaps the best part of this is the appendix, which gives a transcript of Darrow's interrogation of Bryan about the possible flaws of literal interpretations of the bible and the difficulties of fundamentalism.
Hanno Willers
Feb 19, 2014 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.
Nov 18, 2012 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 rated it it was amazing
Its relevance today is startling.
Tyler Cunningham
Sep 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Sage of Baltimore completely evicerates the populist/progressive imbecile William Jennings Bryan, former Secretary of State, three-time Democratic Presidential candidate and bimetallist of "Cross of Gold speech" fame, while covering the so-called Scopes monkey trial. One particularly searing example:

"Bryan was a vulgar and common man, a cad undiluted. He was ignorant, bigoted, self-seeking, blatant and dishonest. His career brought him into contact with the first men of his time; he preferre
Aug 28, 2017 rated it liked it
Surprising at the self-centered, arrogant reporting presented by H.L. Mencken in this book. He disparages "the other side" and, in particular, Williams Jennings Bryant, constantly. The book is a series of newspaper articles he wrote during the Scopes trial that challenged Darwinism and the concept of evolution in a fundamentalist culture. I did learn a lot of new vocabulary though!
Dec 17, 2008 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 28, 2009 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
May 24, 2013 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,
Feb 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Many authors have crystallized the elements of the Scopes "Monkey" Trial. H.L. Mencken enriches this history in two ways: he was an excellent journalist, and he was actually present in the courtroom. If you are looking for sympathy for the fundamentalists, Mencken is not your man. However, I was impressed with his coverage of Dayton, Tennessee, and I suspect this positive assessment remains true today.

Nearly a century later, a few of Mencken's writings range from improper to racist (including p
Mar 09, 2008 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.
Jan 18, 2014 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.
Laura Walsh
Dec 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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!
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 Bolton
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.
Scott Campbell
rated it really liked it
Nov 15, 2014
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Apr 07, 2012
César Rodríguez
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Aug 05, 2013
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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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