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The Skeptic: A Life of H. L. Mencken Paperback – November 4, 2003
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Mencken held to ideas that history was busily sweeping aside. He railed against the growing power of the federal government in the early years of the Roosevelt administration, insisting on an elitist brand of politics that favored the "superior man." He advocated an isolationist course in world affairs, even as totalitarian powers swallowed up whole nations; he agitated against progressive domestic causes; and, albeit ironically, he proposed that capital punishment be turned into a public entertainment. Yet he wrote some of the best, most cruelly entertaining journalism of his time, reporting on great trials, minor crimes, and political conventions, skewering received opinion.
Mencken was "something more than a memorable stylist, if something less than a wise man," Teachout concludes. This careful portrait--the first full-length biography to appear in more than 30 years--gives ample evidence for that verdict. --Gregory McNamee --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
Part of the demonizing of Mencken these days might be attributed to the fact that American society is still intolerant of a critical attitude to religion. Mencken was indeed critical of Judaism. However, as readers of "Treatise on Gods" know, Mencken was also critical of Christianity and Islam. A rationalist to the core, Mencken had little time for people who believed in the supernatural. He detested the religious impulse in Christians, Jews and Muslims alike.
As for those who claim that Mencken is racially prejudice against the Jews, they will have to explain away the fact that, as Teachout shows, Mencken had many close Jewish friends and that he used harsh language toward everyone (the English, the Irish, African-Americans, Italians), not just against the Jews.
As so often with the genteel, the critics of Mencken have focused almost entirely on his manner of writing than rather than the substance of his writing. He argued quite forcefully for a humane foreign policy.Read more ›
He left school after his father's death (1899) to become a reporter for the Baltimore Morning Herald, later serving as drama critic, city editor, and then managing editor of the Baltimore Evening Herald. Soon after the Herald folded in 1906, he joined the Baltimore Sun and continued with the Sun as editor, columnist, or contributor for most of his career. He published studies of George Bernard Shaw (1905) and Friedrich Nietzsche (1908), both of whom he admired. From 1914 to 1923, with George Jean Nathan he co-edited a satirical magazine, The Smart Set; in 1924 he and Nathan co-founded the American Mercury, a cultural magazine for "a civilized minority," which he co-edited for nine years. Mencken has been generally viewed (if viewed at all) as a crusty curmudgeon, never fully appreciated for the quality of his contributions to academic scholarship as well as to journalism during the first third of the 20th century.Read more ›
In addition to the charges of bigotry, another 20% of this book is devoted to Mencken's sex life, as if this were somehow significant, and one gets the impression that this is actually the Kitty Kelley expose of Mencken rather than a serious biography.
In general, "The Skeptic" is remarkable for what it lacks. Anyone unfamiliar with the writing of H. L. Mencken could set this book down and be puzzled as to why there are so many readers who delight in Mencken's wit and insight, as there is no clue provided as to what Mencken's redeeming qualities were. Is there any mention of Mencken's analysis of why politicians behave as they do? Nada.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Although begun with a personable narrative about a Menken encounter with FDR at the Gridiron Club in 1934, an encounter won by the president’s back-handed charm, this biography by... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Cabin Dweller
Terry Teachout has created this magnificent piece of work on H.L.Mencken who was a magnificent piece of work himself. Thanks Terry .Published 17 months ago by Morton I. Blankman
Probably the definitive Mencken biography. Excellent writing.Published 17 months ago by David Robinette
Reading what a poor writer and commonplace thinker like Teachout has to say about Mencken is like watching someone trying to solve a system of differential equations using roman... Read morePublished 17 months ago by Moresby
THIS IS AN INTERESTING BOOK TO READ ABOUT A WELL-KNOWN INDIVIDUAL. THE AUTHOR DOES AN EXCELLENT JOB IN BRINGING MENCKEN INTO FOCUS. Read morePublished on July 17, 2014 by Roland Droitsch
What might we expect of someone who worked very hard to earn an epithet like "The Skeptic" except that he was throroughly skeptical -- I myself would say cynical, or, let's make... Read morePublished on November 18, 2012 by Larry N. Stout
I seldom (actually, never) read a book that I like, yet choose not to recommend it to friends. This biography of HL Mencken has all the ingredients - entertaining writing,... Read morePublished on January 4, 2010 by Matthew McGrath
Like blind men explaining the form of an elephant to the touch, Teachout has shown that one man can't possibly accomplish the task of disecting Mencken. Read morePublished on October 15, 2009 by K. Jones
Mencken said: "it has been my firm belief that all persons who devote themselves to forcing virtue on their fellow men deserve nothing better than kicks in the pants. Read morePublished on June 26, 2009 by Buenoslibros.es