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Disturber of the Peace (Commonwealth Classics in Biography)

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s/t: The Life of H.L. Mencken This fine biography of H.L. Mencken tells of how he rose to his unique position as comic genius and pre-eminent critic of American culture.


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s/t: The Life of H.L. Mencken This fine biography of H.L. Mencken tells of how he rose to his unique position as comic genius and pre-eminent critic of American culture.

30 review for Disturber of the Peace (Commonwealth Classics in Biography)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jonfaith

    I read this on a cold Sunday while we were still at our old house, in fact I read 30 pages walking back from the library. These texts cling to you, like Liebling, like Orwell. Those authors were carefully chosen. Much of journalism's mantle has been maintained by this half-assed reader. One should hence reproduce or "share" with accompanying quotes from Derrida and Donne.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Manny

    I must admit, I never knew who H. L. Mencken was until I saw some memes on Facebook with his quotes. It piqued my interest. He was a man that spoke his mind even when it was politically or socially "incorrect". Second generation American of German descent; I use the previous term in that way because I consider those who emigrate to this country and adopt it as their own, should not hyphenate their name. Son of a cigar maker, Mencken did not want to follow his father's footsteps. Henry loved to w I must admit, I never knew who H. L. Mencken was until I saw some memes on Facebook with his quotes. It piqued my interest. He was a man that spoke his mind even when it was politically or socially "incorrect". Second generation American of German descent; I use the previous term in that way because I consider those who emigrate to this country and adopt it as their own, should not hyphenate their name. Son of a cigar maker, Mencken did not want to follow his father's footsteps. Henry loved to write and aside from a short time trying, and failing to run the cigar business, he finally got a chance to write for a paper. Henry, as he went by as a child, took on his "H.L." moniker at an early age when his father got him a printing press for Christmas and in the process of setting it up, his father broke many of the lower case letters. He liked how it looked and it stuck. Mencken was a clever pundit, academic, critic and author. He was a voracious reader and was reported to have read upwards of 300 pages in one night on a regular basis. He always read lying down. He was ruthless in his criticism towards religion (Christians), politicos as well as social/communists. I know some may not like him, and that is fine, however I love his wit and although I could take some of his quotes to be offensive, I enjoy and respect others free speech. Mecken was the 1920's version of Larry Flynt meets Bill Maher meets Howard Stern. Hated by many and respected by few. If you like Mencken, this is a good book to read. I enjoyed it.

  3. 4 out of 5

    David Glad

    This was not just a good read, but a fun read! Mencken definitely was "street smart" in the truest sense and this was my formal introduction to his life and some of his writings/milestones. (Author/biographer Manchester notes that while other biographies of Mencken were written, this one still seems to stand out. Probably more to that statement than just being self-serving. Worth noting too that Manchester claims to have burned the original manuscript of the book after passage of time and thought This was not just a good read, but a fun read! Mencken definitely was "street smart" in the truest sense and this was my formal introduction to his life and some of his writings/milestones. (Author/biographer Manchester notes that while other biographies of Mencken were written, this one still seems to stand out. Probably more to that statement than just being self-serving. Worth noting too that Manchester claims to have burned the original manuscript of the book after passage of time and thought following Mencken's recommendation that it was not worth publishing.) Beauty too was that William Manchester was just starting out in his literary life, so later aspects of Mencken's life was when their paths intertwined. Mencken sure enjoyed getting people worked up by making provocative and thought-provoking comments, even if a lot of it (perhaps at times most of it) he himself probably did not seriously believe. (Kind of is in the vein of A Modest Proposal. Sure must have been incredible to have been there for the so-called Scopes Monkey Trial with prosecutor William Jennings Bryan insisting humans were NOT mammals.) He probably was right on (I would say alter slightly as upwards) of 99% of people not being interested in thinking for themselves and preferring to talk in cliches and to be led along with the later years the farce of why reporters would demand a 40 hour workweek as if they hated their jobs rather than being eager to cover a hot story and scooping competitors. Also was interesting that for a time he became quite popular, especially with (cynical?) college students and, unlike others, did not seem particularly bothered as the popularity waves waned. Might write more, but late for now.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kristi Richardson

    I have always enjoyed H. L. Mencken's wit and humor, so was very interested in finding out more about his life. William Manchester has written a wonderful biography of a man he knew pretty intimately in his last years. Mencken's father died of a heart attack when he was quite young and he became the man of the house and took care of his mother until her death. She supported him in his efforts of journalism and he loved her very much. Mencken is most famous for his patronage of authors like Mark I have always enjoyed H. L. Mencken's wit and humor, so was very interested in finding out more about his life. William Manchester has written a wonderful biography of a man he knew pretty intimately in his last years. Mencken's father died of a heart attack when he was quite young and he became the man of the house and took care of his mother until her death. She supported him in his efforts of journalism and he loved her very much. Mencken is most famous for his patronage of authors like Mark Twain, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sinclair Lewis and Theodore Dreiser. He wrote critiques of all their books and published several of their short stories in his various magazines. He also was interested in the Scopes trial, in which he termed " the Monkey Trial". When the movie "Inherit the Wind" came out his character was played by Gene Kelly. He married late in life to a Southern woman named Sarah Haardt whom he met when supporting women's right to vote. After a seven year courtship they were married and Sarah died five years later from tuberculosis. Mencken was devastated. He lived a very interesting life and supported freedom and racial and women's rights before it was a popular thing to do. He also was a great supporter of Germany and had a hard time during the two World Wars. Manchester has written a loving biography of a man he deeply admired. I enjoyed this book.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ian

    A well written book about an interesting character. I knew nothing about H. L. Mencken before starting the book. Manchester writes extremely well, and I felt especially impressed that he finished a biography of this depth while still in his 30s. Acquaintance with Mencken gladdens me, and I want to see if I can find some of his writing somewhere. He does one signature thing I like: during major historic events he will pause the narrative and describe everyone's activities at that time. "Everyone" A well written book about an interesting character. I knew nothing about H. L. Mencken before starting the book. Manchester writes extremely well, and I felt especially impressed that he finished a biography of this depth while still in his 30s. Acquaintance with Mencken gladdens me, and I want to see if I can find some of his writing somewhere. He does one signature thing I like: during major historic events he will pause the narrative and describe everyone's activities at that time. "Everyone" that would later come to fame like presidents, authors, celebrities and the like. Since Mencken doesn't have the popularity now that he did in the 50s, I wouldn't recommend the book to most people. But if someone already likes Mencken, then I would strongly recommend it.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Mikki

    A mostly interesting biography of a true American original. What a character! Mencken was a journalist who enjoyed poking fun, (and often smashing) cherished American conventions. And he did it with great vigor and humor. For example, he collected Gideon Bibles in order to send them to pompous churchmen. He signed each copy, "The Author". His quotes are many and legendary. The book did get a little drawn out, though.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Andy Dollahite

    H. L. Mencken is equal parts genius wordsmith, hilarious social commentator, and troubled soul. Like Twain before him, he’s necessary for any investigation of American literature and culture. His wit and satiric bite are striking, and there is so much to glean from his penetrating rhetoric. But even the warmly partisan Manchester couldn’t cloak the sadness of Mencken’s waning years.

  8. 4 out of 5

    John L Kane

    Great book. I have been fascinated by Mencken since college. Amazingly biting but hilarious. A curmudgeon if the highest order.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Chris Spangle

    One of my favorite books. Mencken was a fun character and this was written by one of his friends.

  10. 5 out of 5

    John Behle

    H.L. Mencken was a Baltimore newspaperman, social critic, satirist, bon vivant and all around irascible sage from the early 20th century to his passing at age 75 in 1956. With quotes like, "Nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public" and "Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable," Mencken lived and loved that great gilded age. He started writing for popular magazines like "The Smart Set", gaining fans and boosting reader H.L. Mencken was a Baltimore newspaperman, social critic, satirist, bon vivant and all around irascible sage from the early 20th century to his passing at age 75 in 1956. With quotes like, "Nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public" and "Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable," Mencken lived and loved that great gilded age. He started writing for popular magazines like "The Smart Set", gaining fans and boosting readership. Then starting his own periodical "The American Mercury" in 1924 made him a national journalistic force. The fact that you may not have heard of him might make this bio even more of a draw. William Manchester made Mencken the subject of his first book. Manchester was a cub reporter for The Baltimore Sun and admired Mencken and his grasp of humanity. This 1951 book reads well and flows through the rollicking decades with flair and fluidity. I live in Maryland and enjoyed the Baltimore references. Many of Mencken's haunts are with us still.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Joe

    H.L. Mencken is an endlessly fascinating character and I'm very glad to have gotten around to reading more about him. In total, I found this book a little dry and of questionable value 64 years after it was published. There is much in the book that went straight over my head for lack of context. The author, writing at a time when his subject was still alive and many of the cultural references were well-known, did not really need to do more explaining than he did. Besides that a book's value typic H.L. Mencken is an endlessly fascinating character and I'm very glad to have gotten around to reading more about him. In total, I found this book a little dry and of questionable value 64 years after it was published. There is much in the book that went straight over my head for lack of context. The author, writing at a time when his subject was still alive and many of the cultural references were well-known, did not really need to do more explaining than he did. Besides that a book's value typically decays with time, it simply wasn't the page turner I'd hoped for. The author should be commended for trying to properly capture the "Menckenese" of which he wrote, but it was simply a lot of history and not as much story. My time might have been better spent simply reading the Wikipedia page and then one of Mencken's many books.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Keith

    One of our finest biographers on one of our greatest curmudgeons. Is Mencken not an official synonym for curmudgeon? This was first published in 1950 before the accomplishments of American Caesar, The Last Lion and his book on the Kennedy assassination (still one of the most poignant and literate) but rings with the same style and authority. Manchester knew Mencken and yet his portrait does not elide overt the faults while at the same time describing the raw genius of the Sage of Baltimore.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    Wonderful Entertainment. His way with words makes me want to go to some musty old University Library and read issues of "The American Mercury." I never knew much about him before reading this book. I think I was missing out on a lot.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Rich Merritt

    One of the top five literary characters in American history written by my favorite biographer. This book was pure dessert. Loved every word of it. Manchester was a protege of Mencken's but that doesn't stop him from detailing the old man's faults, which are the best part of him.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Geo Forman

    what a great curmudgeon. I like someone willing to thumb his nose at anyone who takes themselves too seriously, especially narrow-minded people. good biography of the cynic who famously covered the Scopes Monkey trial

  16. 5 out of 5

    Gmaharriet

    I couldn't finish it. I've long been a fan of William Manchester. I've read several of his books, including the 3-volume set on Winston Churchill, and found them fascinating. Perhaps because I've never read anything by H. L. Menken, I found his life uninteresting, no matter how well written.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Craig Bolton

    Disturber of the Peace: The Life of H.L. Mencken (Commonwealth Classics in Biography) by William Raymond Manchester (1986)

  18. 5 out of 5

    Stan Shelley

    This is a biography of H L Mencken. He was an interesting character, a genius of sorts, and Manchester was a fine biographer. A great combination.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    I love me a Manchester book

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sean Vallor

  21. 5 out of 5

    Varmint

  22. 5 out of 5

    JimC

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mark

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Crawford

  25. 5 out of 5

    Dudley W. Murrey

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sam Hoel

  28. 4 out of 5

    Martha

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ken

  30. 4 out of 5

    Elvin

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