Algis Valiunas is one of the best writers published in the Claremont Review of Books. For one thing, he is always entertaining. That suits him perfectly to write about H.L. Mencken. In the new issue of the CRB that we have been previewing this week, he takes up the two-volume Library of America collection of Mencken’s complete Prejudices. Here is a quote from the review: “Mencken’s style has prolonged his posthumous life. Boisterous, bludgeoning, bloody-minded, his prose whaled the tar out of every native piety he found insufferable, which pretty much covered them all.” Worthy of Mencken. (There is a lot in this review that is.)
Valiunas describes Mencken’s hatred of democracy and scorn for religion, explaining that Mencken’s attacks were really on America, and that the few fundamental ideas he had were beaten to death by the end of his career. When asked why he lived in America despite his distaste for it, Mencken replied: “Why do men go to zoos? The animals put on a good show, once you get past the smell.” The same is true for Mencken himself: a good show, once you get past the smell. Valiunas’s review is “At the zoo.”
Algis’s review is the fourth and final piece that we are previewing from the new issue of my favorite magazine. If you love to read and if you lean conservative, the CRB is for you. A subscription costs less that $20 a year. Subscribe here and get immediate online access to the entire issue thrown in.