Saturday, February 11, 2017
"One has heard of a tree so tall that it took two men to see to the top of it. Here is a novel so huge that a whole shift of critics is needed to read it. Did I myself do it all alone? By no means. I read only the first and last paragraphs of each chapter. The rest I farmed out to my wife and children, to my cousin Ferd, and to my pastor and my beer man."
-H. L. Mencken, reviewing Theodore Dreiser's The "Genius". Mencken and Dreiser had a tangled relationship, but had been friends. As copied from Damning Words: the life and religious times of H. L. Mencken
But it does mean that today’s would-be Civil Rights heroes need to think a bit harder about how to build majority support for changes that would help. Martin Luther King was sometimes an angry man, and with just cause, but we owe his lasting impact on American life to his wisdom rather than to his rage.
-as extracted from this Via Meadia post
Our purpose, of course, has not been altruistic. We are surely not uplifters, either as critics or as editors. We have run our magazine as we have written our books - primarily to please ourselves, and secondarily to entertain those Americans who happen, in general, to be of our minds. We differ radically in many ways. For example Nathan is greatly amused by the theater, even when it is bad, whereas I regard it as a bore, even when it is good. Contrariwise, I am much interested in politics, whereas Nathan scarcely knows who is Vice-President of the United States. But on certain fundamentals we are thoroughly agreed, and it is on the plane of these fundamentals that we conduct the Smart Set, and try to interest a small minority of Americans. Both of us are against the sentimental, the obvious, the trite, the maudlin. Both of us are opposed to all such ideas as come from the mob, and are polluted by stupidity: Puritanism, Prohibition, Comstockery, evangelical Christianity, tin-pot patriotism, the whole sham of democracy. Both of us are against socialism and in favor of capitalism, believe that capitalism in the United States is ignorant, disreputable, and degraded, and that its heroes are bounders.
-H. L. Mencken, as culled from D. G. Hart's Damning Words: the life and religious times of H. L. Mencken
Friday, February 10, 2017
Once he had read through most of the contents of the family library, he headed down the street to the local branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library. By the time he was nine, he had borrowing privileges, and "began an almost daily harrying of the virgins at the delivery desk." Mencken's fondness for books took a toll on his frame (and his disposition), as he spent two-thirds of his time with books and only one-third with "trees, fields, streets, and people." "I acquired round shoulders, spindly shanks, and a despondent view of humanity." Such "madness" lasted until his adolescence, when he "began to distinguish between one necktie and another, and to notice the curiously divergent shapes, dispositions and aromas of girls." Even so, the damage was done, and Mencken entered at a very early age the world of language and literary arts.
-D. G. Hart, Damning Words, the life and religious times of H. L. Mencken