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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/9462/the-glory-of-mencken/

The Glory of Mencken

February 18, 2009 by

I’m very happy to announce that Mencken’s forbidden book, Notes on Democracy, is again available in the store (I’ll shelving my serious annoyance that it can’t be put online).

This edition comes with a wonderful intro by Mencken specialist Marion Elizabeth Rodgers. As good as it is, nothing prepares you for Mencken himself. You can agree or disagree with him, but what I find great about this towering intellect is that he forces you to rethink everything you have taken for granted. Reading him is like getting electric shocks to the brain. He refuses to allow intellectual laziness. You find yourself thinking: “Is it really legal to write things like this? Do I have to hide this book if someone else enters the room?”

This iconoclasm is extremely important in times when public discourse as become as dull as WonderBread. From NPR to the daily blab on television to the upwardly mobile pundit class, the whole of modern civic conversation has become deadly dull, with everyone striving to say what everyone else says as a way of gaining approval, while avoiding any hot button issues and topics that might be later unearthed to become a “career killer.” As a result, self censorship has become the path to security and fame, and the norm for anyone who strives to be a vaunted public intellectual.

But it is not the path to making a difference. Mencken makes a difference. He lets you in on the secrets, makes you part of a club that knows, elevates you above the white noise of civic life, and suggests a revolutionary path forward. This is a fantastic accomplishment, and it is a marvel how his prose still packs a mighty punch after all these years. We flatter ourselves into thinking that we are a liberally minded people, and yet when you read this, you realize just how utterly intolerant we’ve become toward serious thought.

Thank goodness we still have Mencken around to tell the truth.

{ 6 comments }

Greg February 18, 2009 at 10:58 am

As a current college student, I’ve found Mencken fascinating.

In the society/culture I’ve grown up in, I simply cannot imagine his type of intellectual prowess used to be regularly published in newspapers.

It gives me a sort of nostalgia I shouldn’t even possess for an age I was never close to experiencing.

“Thank goodness we still have Mencken around to tell the truth.”

Truer words were never written.

C [the forgotten man] February 18, 2009 at 4:21 pm

I have also recently discovered Mencken, and have been reading his works available at gutenberg.org and manybooks.net on my Kindle.

I am curious, why can this one not be posted online?

It is quite old, surely in the public domain, and it is available on Google books: http://books.google.com/books?id=Ec__DZj3CMUC&dq=Notes+on+Democracy+mencken&printsec=frontcover&source=bl&ots=Gb1UTz8TEj&sig=Zkpx9ZImVj3xZj4zE3M6gxkibXU&hl=en&ei=U4icSZuNFIzgMPaAuYoF&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=2&ct=result#PPA216,M1

Perhaps the new intro would be copyrighted, but could you not post a copy of the original, as Google has?

I wish to download it to my Kindle to read. Any ideas where to find it?

jeffrey February 18, 2009 at 4:27 pm

Knopf claims to own the text. The google version even claims that it is copyrighted and that it is a limited preview.

Poor Mencken! most of his work kept off line thanks to the state.

C [the forgotten man] February 18, 2009 at 4:38 pm

I can see all 224 pages of the body of the text in the google version, even though it claims to be copyrighted, and it appears to be the 1927 edition published in London. Would that not be public domain by now?

It is not yet available on Amazon for Kindle download, so I guess I shall have to buy a hard copy.

Google books is not a pleasant way to read a long book, really, compared to a handheld or mashed trees.

Thanks for bringing this to our attention, Jeff.

I shall likely order it through Mises. Mencken is such a delight.

Nick February 18, 2009 at 8:22 pm

Mencken reppin da 410 Bmore Style.

But seriously, he’s hilarious.

newson February 21, 2009 at 6:54 pm

“notes on democracy” is available on scribd, for those who don’t have an hang-up about ip.

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