Cover

pdf iconDownload PDF
 

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. i-vi

Contents

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. vii-x

read more

A Disarming Introduction to an Alarming American

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 1-14

Mencken. Dead for nearly 60 years, with a legacy of some 10 million recorded words by his own reckoning, a body of work that by any reckoning must be as large as any man of letters ever produced in English, Latin, Greek, or Farsi. Somehow the man grew, posthumously, as more of his unpublished work became available, attracted commentary and memoir,...

read more

Machine Dreams

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 15-28

In all the long history of literature, evolving from an oral tradition through centuries of calligraphy and typography to its current shotgun marriage with digital electronics, there was but one lonely century dominated by a machine so suddenly and brutally obsolete that few twenty-first-century college students have ever seen one. Yet nearly everyone old enough...

read more

Angry with His Own Time

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 29-46

The great Austrian novelist Robert Musil, born like Mencken in 1880, placed these prophetic words in the mouth of his protagonist Ulrich, in The Man without Qualities: “One can’t be angry with one’s own time without damage to oneself.” It’s a warning H. L. Mencken may never have read, or have held up to him as a caution by a friend or an enemy, but it...

read more

The Word at War

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 47-60

The most significant, most personal and moving endorsement of H. L. Mencken by any major writer may be this paragraph from Black Boy, by Richard Wright:

A block away from the library I opened one of Mencken’s books and read a title: A Book of Prefaces. I was nearing my nineteenth birthday and I did not know how to pronounce the word “preface.” I thumbed the pages and saw strange...

read more

“I Remain a Foreigner”

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 61-70

In this twenty-first century, the liberal-minded define themselves as fully evolved citizens of the world, long since blind to such ephemeral distinctions as race, ethnicity, gender, or “sexual orientation.” It’s a test of membership in this civilized elite to betray no hint of prejudice or stereotyping on any occasion, not even when some representative of an oppressed...

read more

Recessional

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 71-78

This recent assessment, so generous on the high side and so unsparing on the low, concisely addresses two things— why it’s a mistake to ignore Mencken, and why so many people choose to make that mistake. Though I’ve learned that attempts to channel him are largely futile, I tried to imagine whether Mencken himself would grin or snort in disgust if he could...

read more

Acknowledgments

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 79-80

For this book on H. L. Mencken, who detested scholars, I am deeply indebted to three distinguished scholars. First, to Bob Richardson, who steered me and the book toward each other, and reassured me that it would be a fortunate collision. From crewing on his boat in the North Atlantic, I can testify that he has never yet steered me wrong. It’s my hope that he...

read more

Bibliographic Essay

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 81-84

Anyone who claims to have read every word H. L. Mencken published is a shameless liar; the percentage that I’ve read should qualify me, if less than an expert, as at least an earnest student of his work. My widest and most intense survey was accomplished a few years ago in a state of fear, when I was asked to deliver the annual lecture to the Mencken Society...

Index

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 85-88

Other Works in the Series

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 89-89