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Prejudices - First Series

H. L. Mencken

Book Overview: 

Mencken sharpens his pen and in a collection of short essays delivers acerbic opinions on issues and persons of the time. Among his targets in this volume (the first of six) are critics, H.G. Wells Thorstein Veblen, Arnold Bennett, William Dean Howells, Irvin S. Cobb. Mencken's critiques are delivered against a background of his own well known ethnic, racial, religious, and sectional prejudices. (It is said that the only thing Mencken loved about the Southern United States was his wife, who hailed from Alabama.) Not for the faint of heart, Mencken's prickly, yet unapologetic, prose reveals a window into American attitudes at the time they were written and their influences on the larger American culture.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .’s stature as a novelist in the conventional sense is converted into a valuable possession. Better than any other man of his time he has got upon paper the social anatomy and physiology of the masses of average, everyday, unimaginative Englishmen. One leaves the long series of Five Towns books with a sense of having looked down the tube of a microscope upon a huge swarm of infinitely little but incessantly struggling organisms—creatures engaged furiously in the pursuit of grotesque and unintelligible ends—helpless participants in and victims of a struggle that takes on, to their eyes, a thousand lofty purposes, all of them puerile to the observer above its turmoil. Here, he seems to say, is the middle, the average, the typical Englishman. Here is the fellow as he appears to himself—virtuous, laborious, 40important, intelligent, made in God’s image. And here he is in fact—swinish, ineffective, inconsequential, stupid, a feeble parody. . . Read More