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 contrarian, and, for that reason, he had far more scope for his talents. It would be quite fair to call him a true American genius whose range and Mark Twain-like skepticism leave the reader sometimes convulsed with laughter, sometimes completely enraged, but always transfixed with admiration.
In this volume of more than 600 pages, Mencken has collected more than 100 choice passages, ranging from men, women, and southerners to religion, politics, music, literature, and the arts. This selection is a pure delight, and, while not every piece entertains, one cannot help but be awed by this true polymath and regret not having him around today.
Edited and annotated by H.L.M., this is a selection from his out-of-print writings. They come mostly from books—the six of the PREJUDICES series, A BOOK OF BURLESQUES, IN DEFENSE OF WOMEN, NOTES ON DEMOCRACY, MAKING A PRESIDENT, A BOOK OF CALUMNY, TREATISE ON RIGHT AND WRONG—but there are also magazine and newspaper pieces that never got between covers (from the American Mercury, the Smart Set, and the Baltimore Evening Sun) and some notes that were never previously published at all.
Readers will find edification and amusement in his estimates of a variety of Americans—Woodrow Wilson, Aimee Semple McPherson, Roosevelt I and Roosevelt II, James Gibbons Huneker, Rudolph Valentino, Calvin Coolidge, Ring Lardner, Theodore Dreiser, and Walt Whitman. Those musically inclined will enjoy his pieces on Beethoven, Schubert, and Wagner, and there is material for a hundred controversies in his selections on Joseph Conrad, Thorstein Veblen, Nietzsche, and Madame Blavatsky.
The author chose selections form his out of print writings: his books, magazines and newspaper pieces.
(from Barnes & Noble)