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A Religious Orgy in Tennessee: A Reporter's Account of the Scopes Monkey Trial Paperback – September 1, 2006

ISBN-13: 978-1933633176 ISBN-10: 1933633174

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A Religious Orgy in Tennessee: A Reporter's Account of the Scopes Monkey Trial + Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 206 pages
  • Publisher: Melville House (September 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1933633174
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933633176
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #300,449 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

H.L. Mencken is one of American history's foremost journalists. Writing from the turn of the century until the late 1940's for the Baltimore Sun newspaper, he was known for a savage wit, an erudite if salty language, and an iconoclastic outlook that saw through politicians and fads with fearless abandon. He died in 1956. Editor Art Winslow writes frequently for the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and Bookforum, and was, for many years, Literary Editor and Executive Editor of The Nation.

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Customer Reviews

Mencken is the absolute best reporter that ever lived and this account proves it.
John P. Ahrens
People who are insecure and hate anything that questions or ridicules their beliefs should stay far away from this wonderful book.
Franklin the Mouse
I am a huge fan of H. L. Mencken and this addition to the library doesn't disappoint.
political idiot

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Kerry Walters VINE VOICE on December 7, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm not especially an admirer of Mencken. He bothers me for much the same reason that Oscar Wilde does: both have a tendency to shoot for the biting witticism, the memorable bon mot, rather than depth. They're sometimes fun to read, but they rarely serve up anything one can sink one's teeth into.

Mencken's A Religious Orgy in Tennessee, a collection of columns about the Scope trial written for "The Baltimore Sun," "The Nation," and "The American Mercury," is more than just entertaining, though. It offers a look at early twentieth-century Christian fundamentalism (Mencken frequently, and incorrectly, calls it "evangelicalism") that is chilling not only for its own intrinsic stupidity--at one point, Mencken cites a woman fundamentalist who boasts that she has no books in her home and that she hates all books but the Bible (p. 54)--but also because it clearly demonstrates that fundamentalism than and fundamentalism now are essentially the same. The fundamentalist hatred of learning, the dogmatic zeal to condemn any theory or opinion not authenticated by scripture, the parochial refusal to look beyond sectarian norms: everything that Mencken encountered in Dayton, Tennessee in 1925 can be attributed to American fundamentalism today. The only difference is that today's fundamentalism is much more organized and media-savvy.

Three chapters in particular stand out: Chapter 2, in which Mencken profiles the fundamentalist mind (calling it "Homo neanderthalensis"); Chapter 7, in which he describes a late night revival; and Chapter 16, in which he defends freedom of thought. The first of these three is especially fine, while the second is one of the best pieces of on-the-spot reporting Mencken ever wrote.

This edition is troublesome.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Franklin the Mouse on March 23, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If the reader is looking for a play-by-play account of the Scopes Trial, then you've selected the wrong book. I recommend "Summer for the Gods" by Edward L. Larson. Mr. Mencken's dispatches were his arguments about the folly of the proceedings, William Jennings Bryan, the religious "yokels," and the pretzel logic used to refute evolution. These columns are well-reasoned works of metaphorical art. This small jewel compiles all his editorials concerning the trial as well as over a dozen B&W photos and the full court transcript exchange between Bryan and Clarence Darrow. (Be prepared. Bryan comes across as a confused dunderhead.) It even has Mencken's nasty, no-holds-barred obituary about Bryan. Even over 80 years later and I'm still shocked at the viciousness of the author's attack on a person who wasn't alive to defend himself. But to understand why Mencken took such an approach, please read the outstanding biography "Mencken:The American Iconoclast" by Marion Elizabeth Rodgers. People who are insecure and hate anything that questions or ridicules their beliefs should stay far away from this wonderful book. You'll just blow a blood vessel or two. All other readers should quickly get their hands on a copy. Mr. Mencken's pieces are still very relevant today.
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27 of 34 people found the following review helpful By political idiot on January 16, 2007
Format: Paperback
I am a huge fan of H. L. Mencken and this addition to the library doesn't disappoint. Mencken was one of America's most respected, despised, and feared journalists. As the number one literary enemy of the fundamentalist most of his career, Mencken was in his element at the John Scopes trial that pitted the science of evolution against the mythology of fundamentalist Christianity.

In 1925, Mencken drew the nation's attentions to a trial taking place in Dayton, Tennessee that would test the boundaries of a new law (the Butler Act) that prohibited the teaching of: "any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals." One enterprising individual set about testing the law by asking a local teacher (a friend sympathetic with the cause) to teach Darwin's theory of evolution. That teacher was 24-year-old John T. Scopes. Lasting eight days in the courtroom and eleven days in total, the weather was painfully hot probably irritating Mencken even more.

Writing for the Baltimore Evening Sun, Mencken's verbal energy and acute wit are stunning (no journalist, pundit, or commentator today even comes close). And much of his sarcastic eloquence comes, of course, at the expense of the key figure at the trial William Jennings Bryan. As the billing promises, these reports are by the most famous newspaperman in American history are vivid, highly intelligent, scathingly honest, and hysterically funny.

Mencken saw the transparent attempt at keeping evolution from being taught in schools contemptible, and the Scopes trial as ample opportunity to ridicule the "yokels," "half-wits," and "buffoons" who believe that man is not a mammal and the earth is less then 6,000 years old.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By William St. Clair on February 4, 2008
Format: Paperback
It's 1925 in Dayton, Tennessee. The state has recently enacted legislation requiring that creationism (known now as intelligent design) be taught in all publicly financed schools. John Scopes, a highly principled teacher and "infidel" refuses to comply with this edict. His defiance becomes the catalyst for one of the most anticipated trials in US history, the Scopes Monkey Trial. Attorney for the defense is Clarence Darrow. State attorney A. T. Stewart is the prosecutor, aided by erstwhile presidential candidate, William Jennings Bryan. Covering the trial for the Baltimore Sun and for posterity, is that acerbic scribe, H. L. Mencken.

In a packed 90 degree courtroom, litigants and audience alike endure 11 days of sweltering heat and blistering condemnation from both sides of the most volatile issue since the issue itself.

Mencken's daily reports from July 10 to July 21 are replete with critism and witticism. His, at times, withering commentary is clearly slanted agnostic. He makes no affectation whatsoever toward unbiased reporting. With his amazing command of the english language, he's more an elegant verbal assassin than news reporter. Mencken leaves no earth unscorched, from the "local yokels" to the "ignoramuses" who purport to govern them. His most potent venom is reserved for William Jennings Bryan. Bryan is seated as a bible expert and witness for the prosecution as he faces off against Clarence Darrow. Darrow presents compelling scientific facts refuting creationism, while Bryan defers to meaningless scripture and ridiculous superstition, advancing neither his cause nor his standing amoung the country's thinking elite.

A Religious Orgy in Tennessee is a compilation of newspaper articles. One should probably be an agnostic and Mencken fan to enjoy it. Also, have a dictionary close at hand. You'll need it.
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