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Disturber of the Peace: The Life of H. L. Mencken Audible – Unabridged

4.6 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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By Chris Gregor on November 17, 2000
Format: Paperback
I highly recommend this book to anyone who admire's the genius of H.L. Mencken. Manchester has created an in-depth account of the "Lion of the Twenties," from his early childhood in Baltimore as the son of a German-American cigar company owner, to his acendence to the pinnacle of the American intellectual renaissance of the 1920's. Manchester sculpts a palpable and staunch profile of the self-described "conservative anarchist," who made his mark as the editor of the influencial American Mercury magazine, writer/editor for the Baltimore Sun, and author of The American Language, the penultimate chronicle of American English. Mencken was a prolific pundit, scholar, social critic, reader and writer, blessed with a caustic wit, a hair-trigger mind, and an impossibly contrarian nature. His voracity for reading was so deep that he was known to read a motor repair manual "just because it was another human being trying to communicate." No one escaped his crticism with socialists, Christian Fundamentalists, and politicians particularly targeted. Manchester's writing, as in all his excellent works (I also highly recommend "Goodbye Darkness," Manchester's memoir of his combat service in the South Pacific as a U.S. Marine in WWII, five stars)is wonderfully rich. Manchester's style also has a lot of Mencken in it, which is another reason I liked the book. I don't know if he was consciously attempting to pay homage through stylistic similarities, but the cadence, language and were reminiscent of Mencken's works, and gave me the feeling it was really Mencken telling his life story through the hand of Manchester. Not a bad guy to emulate, even when you're as good as Manchester.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have read so many Mencken biographies lately that it is hard to keep them straight, but I enjoyed this one as much as any. I always think it offers an extra dimension if the biographer actually was acquainted with his subject. I learn something new from each biography.
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Format: Audible Audio Edition
I have always enjoyed H. L. Mencken's wit and humor, so was very interested in finding out more about his life. William Manchester has written a wonderful biography of a man he knew pretty intimately in his last years.

Mencken's father died of a heart attack when he was quite young and he became the man of the house and took care of his mother until her death. She supported him in his efforts of journalism and he loved her very much.

Mencken is most famous for his patronage of authors like Mark Twain, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sinclair Lewis and Theodore Dreiser. He wrote critiques of all their books and published several of their short stories in his various magazines.

He also was interested in the Scopes trial, in which he termed " the Monkey Trial". When the movie "Inherit the Wind" came out his character was played by Gene Kelly.

He married late in life to a Southern woman named Sarah Haardt whom he met when supporting women's right to vote. After a seven year courtship they were married and Sarah died five years later from tuberculosis. Mencken was devastated.

He lived a very interesting life and supported freedom and racial and women's rights before it was a popular thing to do. He also was a great supporter of Germany and had a hard time during the two World Wars.

Manchester has written a loving biography of a man he deeply admired. I enjoyed this book.
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Format: Paperback
William Manchester is an excellent biographer. This is my favorite biography of Mencken. Similarly, Mr. Manchester's biography of General MacArthur, "American Caesar" is my favorite of the General.

H. L. Mencken was an icon of the 1920's. He writing is full of irony. I think that one can become misled by his message if one reads his work at a superficial level. In addition to being very illuminating about the life of H. L. Mencken in general, Mr. Manchester's biography has really helped me understand and appreciate the writings of Mr. Mencken. Thank You...
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Format: Paperback
People often stop me on the street and ask, "Yo! Dude! I rilly dig what you been layin' down 'bout this H. L. Mencken dude? He, like, rilly laid down some heavy raps? Like word-up, y'know? So where c'n I grok more a'this Mencken?"

or somethimes
"Kim jest Mencken, o ktorym czesto wspominasz? Jego mysli mnie intryguja. Czy pozyczylbys mi piec dolarów?"

At such questions, I simply reach into my knapsack and produce a copy of this book. It contains what you need to get started in your new life as a Mencken energumen. If you begin with the many volumes of Mencken's original writings that are being reissued, you may be stymied by the topical nature of his work and be left scratching your whiskers over references to the American novelist Winston Churchill, Lizette Woodworth Reese, Gerhardt Hauptmann, obscure fraternal lodges, and numerous dry politicians such as William G. McAdoo (made famous for posterity by the chorus that went "Doo-McAdoo-McAdoo-McAdoo-McAdoo-McAdoo").

This book puts it all into perspective with no heavy lifting. It's a fun read and a perfect gift for an adolescent niece or nephew who shows insufficient signs of rebellion.

This printing of the book is Manchester's expanded edition, so you get more bang for the buck, but if you find an earlier edition for less, get that. Just get it!

My only objection to this edition is that it bowdlerizes the original title: "Disturber of the Peace: the Life and RIOTOUS TIMES of H. L. Mencken."
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