Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Minority Report (9). HL Mencken

Minority Report: HL Mencken’s Notebooks (9). New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 1956.

Why read it? One of the most celebrated curmudgeons in American history. Mencken writes in half-truths. He’s half wrong, but he is also half right. His style jolts the reader. He will make you think. The topics are random, from a collection of ideas that had gathered dust over the years but which he had never developed into full-blown essays. Reading these quotes again, I am thinking of the irreverence of the television show, All in the Family. Mencken might be a great Archie Bunker, if Archie Bunker could write.

Sample quotes and ideas:

“Artists can seldom account for their own work….” p. 188.

“The process of creation is only partly intellectual; the rest of it seems to be based on instinct rather than on idea.” p. 188.

“The common argument that crime is caused by poverty is a …slander on the poor….” p. 190.

“Every man is intrinsically anti-social.” p. 191.

On G.K. Chesterton’s method of writing essays: “…four-fifths of his essays start off by citing something that is generally believed and then seeks to demolish it….” p. 194.

“People crave certainties in this world and are hostile to ‘ifs’ and ‘buts.’ ” p. 199.

James I of England, 1621: “I will govern according to the common weal, but not according to the common will.” p. 203.

“The masses of the people are quite as incapable of deciding questions of government as they are of deciding questions of medicine.” p. 202.

“It is not materialism that is the chief curse of the world…but idealism.” p. 211.

Abraham Lincoln: “No man is good enough to govern another man without that other’s consent.” p. 215.

Government: “The aim is not merely to make him obey, but also to make him want to obey.” p. 217.

“In every 100 of the men composing [the government] there are two who are honest and intelligent, ten obvious scoundrels and 88 poor fish.” p. 221.

“The men who fought for self-determination at Gettysburg were not the Federals but the Confederates.” p. 223.

To be concluded.

No comments:

Post a Comment