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H.L. Mencken: Prejudices: The Complete Series (Library of America) Hardcover – September 2, 2010

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The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Series: Library of America
  • Hardcover: 1408 pages
  • Publisher: Library of America; Slp edition (September 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1598530763
  • ISBN-13: 978-1598530766
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 2.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #353,769 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Not much more can be said about Mencken that Kevin didn't cover in his review. This two volume set replaces a "selected" version that I had in my Mencken collection. I will pass the selected version along to a friend. Mencken is a true word smith in the highest order. He has a way of presenting things that has me rolling on the floor in laughter, pounding my fists on my armchair in anger and shaking my head in disbelief as he exposes tedious frauds, ignoramuses, cheap rouges, hypocrites, and other grasping, selfish, dishonest mammals that are hell-bent on robbing us of the fruit or our labors. For those who aren't familiar with Mencken, I highly recommend this set.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought these volumes for a friend and ended up reading almost all of both for myself as we passed them between us. Mencken is a writer whom I had heard mentioned regularly but took him to be more a dated source of witticism than a lasting voice to be heard with respect. These essays and pieces give a fascinating insight into the US political and literary scene in the pre-WW1period and its aftermath. Mencken should be given much more prominence as pungent observer of the society in which he lived and as an interpreter of trends and fallibilities in its governance which continue to dictate patterns of political behaviour.
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I was largely unfamiliar with Mencken's writings until recently but I decided to take a chance on these two volumes. How lucky I am that I did! These essays are wonderful. H.L. Mencken is a writer I can enjoy without feeling he is talking down to me... intelligent and witty discourse makes his Prejudices a engaging and educational at once. Even the format is perfect... well-bound and small, but not paperback-sized. I will be enjoying these for many years to come.
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Injustice is relatively easy to bear; what stings is justice. This, of course, refers to criticism.
Mencken, one of the most influential intellectuals in the US in the first half of the 20th century, was provocative, amusing and interesting. He was neither religious nor leftist, but rather full of contempt for both. He described himself as a conservative anarchist. He was pleading for resistance to the pollution of logic by emotion. On the other hand, he was given to mixing up issues badly and he wasn't such a sharp logician himself when it came to political questions.

His critical essays were collected, edited and published in 6 volumes during the 1910s/20s. The books were called Prejudices, which is a title that appeals to me. Library of America has now published the 6 Prejudices series in two of their nice black volumes. They are a delight.
As critics do, Mencken knew everything better. That's part of the fun.

Some examples.
Psychology and psychoanalysis were indistinguishable from evangelism and circus clowns.
'Emerson, on the side of ideas, has left but faint tracks behind him.'
'Sargent should have been a designer of candy box tops.'
Teddy Roosevelt was a brother in spirit of the Kaiser. 'The America that Roosevelt dreamed of was a kind of swollen Prussia.'
The lands to the South of the Potomac were void of culture and ideas.
No prostitute was ever so vile to a community as a prowling vice crusader. Prohibition will gradually empty the US of its present minority of civilized men.
If women really knew their business, they would give up cooking and focus instead on distilling and brewing. It is a rare man who would walk five blocks for a meal, but it is also a rare man who would not walk 5 blocks for a good cocktail.
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THE PREJUDICES, collected here in book form, are an early portion of mencken’s newspaper articles. the first volume appeared in 1919, the same year as his better known THE AMERICAN LANGUAGE. over the years, five more volumes followed, concluding with the last volume in 1927. the six series, as they are called, are compiled in two volumes in a slipcase, published by the library of america literary classics of the united states. within that time frame, mencken found much to rally against, though he had his favorite irritants—the volstead act, which president wilson’s veto failed to stop from becoming the 18th amendment to the constitution, and the legacy of the comstock act.

railing against the effects of the 18th amendment, mencken wrote: ‘What all the current optimists overlook is that the illogical and indefensible persecutions certain to occur in increasing number under the Prohibition Amendment constitute the chief cause of its popularity among the sort of men who are in favor of it. The typical Prohibitionist, in other words, is a man full of religious excitement, with the usual sadistic overtones. He delights in persecution for its own sake. He likes to see the other fellow jump and to hear him yell. This thirst is horribly visible in all the salient mad mullahs of the land—that is, in all the genuine leaders of American culture. Such skillful boob-bumpers as the Rev. Dr. Billy Sunday know what that culture is; they know what the crowd wants. Thus they convert the preaching of the allege Word of God into a rough-and-tumble pursuit of definite sinners—saloon-keepers, prostitutes, Sabbath-breakers, believers in Darwinian hypothesis, German exegetes, hand-books, poker-players, adulterers, cigarette-smokers, users of profanity.
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