Prejudices has 69 ratings and 5 reviews. Kevin said: H.L. Mencken wrote a hundred years ago and I still cringe at his fearless attacks on all things that. Project Gutenberg · 58, free ebooks · 17 by H. L. Mencken. Prejudices, First Series by H. L. Mencken. Book Cover. Download; Bibrec. Project Gutenberg · 58, free ebooks · 17 by H. L. Mencken. Prejudices, Third Series by H. L. Mencken. Book Cover. Download; Bibrec.
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For better or worse, I am a child of the Plains, and so my first experience with H. Mencken was less an introduction than a confrontation. I liked him immediately. I liked him so much that I bought The American Languagethe pillar of his bibliography, and never touched it again.
Unaware of my purchase, my girlfriend gave me a copy of the same book as a gift, but not before gluing the pages together and carving out the middle to prejduices my secrets. Later I purchased a used copy of The New Mencken Letters and schlepped that page tome around wherever I went, reading a letter or two here and there, recklessly quoting from it in term papers. Perhaps, too, I was charmed by that most convenient of facts: Instead I accepted him the way he accepted himself, disregarding the imperfections—of which, I would later find out, there were many.
My respect for him menckne hardly reciprocated. About Nebraska, my home state, he had made himself very clear: Flipping eagerly among the essays, I was aware that Mencken, like the Boobus Americanus he lampooned, had never attended college himself. In fact he rarely left the confines of Baltimore, and spent much of his adult life living with his mother and eating her sandwiches. The show had already started, and his ridicule, in a way, seemed a privilege. I felt like the drunk at a comedy club, asking to be called out.
His essays were often filled with half truths that were at once poignant and utterly prrjudices. Mencken always takes the argument one step further, always lobs another one-sided anecdote, always takes another jab at this politician or prejudies writer. Often you find yourself searching for his thesis beneath piles of contradiction and qualification.
You have to judge him totally, roughly, approximately, without definition, as you would a barrage of artillery, for the general destruction rather than for the accuracy of the individual emncken.
He presents an experience, and if he gets you, he gets you not by reasoned conviction, but by a conversion which you may or may not be able to dress up later as a philosophy. His belief in social Darwinism terrifies me. And yet I was wont, as many fans are, to defend Mencken anyway. I was taken by his disregard for authority and mediocrity, and by the ballistic energy with which mrncken denounced them.
He prsjudices have been wrong, but, damn, it sounded right. The ride was everything.
Meanwhile, the world marched on without me. Closer to home, protesters flooded the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, after a white police officer shot an unarmed black teenager.
A grand jury failed to indict. Past his antiquated literary critiques and his roast of Franklin D. Looking for an escape, I instead found a searing commentary on contemporary affairs, a voice every bit as righteous as the Sunday reformers flooding my news feed. A white police officer had killed an unarmed black man.
It evolved into something much more malleable, less a legally binding document menckrn a set of ten rough ideas. Injustice in America, he seemed to say, is systemic. The corruption of law is so engrained in our culture that only the perversely idealistic and monomaniacal would care to object. After the grand jury failed to indict Wilson, that word— systemic —dominated the national conversation.
Prejudices, Third Series by H. L. Mencken
Though Mencken routinely defended the civil rights of minorities in print, his diaries, which were only unsealed inexposed a man who was both patronizing toward African Americans and unthinkingly anti-Semitic. In an entry dated September 23,for example, Mencken complains that Emma Ball, his black maid, had a tendency to overpolish his hardwood floors. Fecher, the editor of The Diary of H. One cannot ask that he be forgiven, or even excused. About all one can do is ask the reader simply to accept the fact and pass on.
I did not forgive Mencken. I did accept him. And in acknowledging his many flaws, I was able to move past them, stirred by a bigot to rejoin the movement against bigotry. Prejuices I finished MenckwnI knew a few things for sure: I read through a few more of his letters, but eventually I moved on, and placed Prejudicse back on the shelf.
This should have been the end, but prehudices, in January of last year, two masked gunmen forced their way into the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical weekly often accused of bigotry itself, and opened fire in the name of Allah. Because Charlie Hebdo relentlessly satirized the prophet Muhammad, because the magazine routinely practiced its right to offend, and because both shooters were Islamists, the first wave of pundits called the massacre an attack prdjudices free speech.
The second wave agreed, though less resolutely, questioning the moral efficacy of a publication that would intentionally print sacrilege mehcken the age of extremism.
Regardless, millions worldwide raised their pencils in solidarity.
Prejudices: The Complete Series by H.L. Mencken
Watching protesters march through the streets of Paris, with the unrest in Ferguson still fresh on my mind, it occurred to me that Prjudices was only half right.
It came, rather, from his absolute and unwavering commitment prejkdices the First Amendment. Much like Charlie HebdoMencken never abstained from the opportunity to lampoon, to ridicule, or to offend—even when he knew the result would be condemnation and disparagement. Spurred by tragedy, the masses had marched for one day in Paris. Mencken marched for a lifetime, at a rate of at leastwords per year.
Stubbornly, sometimes stupidly, he stood by them all. Readers often wondered why Mencken stayed in America, disgusted as he claimed to be with its third-rate inhabitants. Mencken answered that question in the most Lrejudices way:. Human enterprises which, in all other Christian countries, are resigned despairingly to an incurable dullness … are here lifted to such vast heights of buffoonery that contemplating them strains the midriff almost to breaking. To be clear, he probably meant it.
But I suspect that Mencken also knew, in a deeper manner than most, just how rare freedom of expression really is, and what it would mean to lose it. In the most American way, Mencken criticized his own country without the slightest hint prrjudices self-censorship, refusing to let that freedom atrophy.
There is no justifying the anti-Semitism and racism that his diaries so clearly reveal. But those who question the efficacy of satire often do so on the grounds that its target will invariably miss the point in a way that reinforces existing stereotypes. That assumes a certain degree of engagement to begin with. More than once, Charlie Hebdo and H. Mencken have missed the mark. So have most comics. He makes the spectator live for the work of art. Out of the process comes understanding, appreciation, intelligent enjoyment—and that is precisely what the artist tried to produce.
In that sense, he was a consummate critic, one who was perfectly equipped to wake the citizenry from its slumber. He made democracy live for the spectator; he made the spectator live for democracy. Mencken at the Baltimore Sun.