Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Minority Report. HL Mencken. Significant Sentences.

Minority Report: HL Mencken's Notebooks
New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 1956.

Why read it? If you have not read something by H.L. Mencken, you have missed one of the truly memorable misanthropes in civilization, who wrote in a style that infuriated most of his readers. He is a wall-to-wall critic of almost everything to be encountered in American society in his own day and today, and each of his shafts brings from readers the response, "Damn it, he's right!" Well, half-right, anyway. Anyone who reads H.L. Mencken never forgets him.

Significant sentences from HL Mencken's Minority Report, acerbic thoughts on American life and culture.

HL Mencken's Preface to Minority Report: "If I could begin another life at my septuagesima I might have some expectation of developing [the notes contained in this book and the thousands of like ones that still lie in my bin] into something properly describable as a coherent and even elegant system, but as it is, I'll have to spend my time post-mortem either bawling liturgical music (which I greatly dislike) or boiling in oil (which no one speaks well of)."

"We must respect the other fellow's religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart." p. 3.

"A dull, dark, depressing day in winter: the whole world looks like a Methodist church at Wednesday night prayer meeting." p. 3.

"In a country of pushers and yearners, what a joy to meet a man who envies no one and wants to be nothing that he is not." p. 3.

"The really astounding thing about marriage is not that it so often goes to smash, but that it so often endures." p. 3.

"I am willing to admit evidence to show that the victim, though perhaps not a criminal himself, was of such small social value that his death or injury was no appreciable public loss." p. 5.

"The late Judge Frederick Bausman of Seattle...proposed...that a sharp distinction be made between murderers whose crimes are of such a character that any normal persons, under the circumstances, might be imagined committing them, and murderers who kill strangers for gain." p. 6.

[In favor of sterilization of criminals]: "Even if it is argued that their criminality is thus the product of environment rather than of heredity, it follows that the environment they themselves provide for children is very likely to produce more criminals." p. 7.

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