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March 30 , 2010

The Humor of Mencken


This volume contains five works by Henry Louis Mencken: “Pistols for Two,” “Heliogabalus,” “The Artist: A Drama Without Words,” “A Book of Burlesques,” and “Suggestions to Our Visitors.”  George Jean Nathan, who edited the important literary magazine The Smart Set with Mencken for many years, co-authored the first and last of these five books.

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Mencken and Nietzsche

This volume contains the complete text of two books.   H. L. Mencken translated the book The Philosophy of Frederick Nietzsche from the original German.  The second book, The Antichrist, was written by F. W. Nietzsche and translated by Mencken, who also wrote the forward.  The book has been reformatted for consistency, to…

“Pistols for Two” can best be described as a duel of words between two highly opinionated and cantankerous friends of long collaboration.  Take it with a grain of salt.

“Heliogabalus,” more properly entitled “Heliogabalus: A Buffoonery in Three Acts,” is a play set in ancient Rome and has an interesting perspective on the relationship between religion and marriage, slyly presented within an interesting comedy.  Read the author notes to discover why the play was intended to be read, but never to be performed.  Clearly, there was a talented playwright hidden inside a curmudgeonly author and essayist!

“The Artist: A Drama Without Words” is another work written in the form of a play.  As the title suggests, there are no words. The work contains multiple internal dialogs at a classical music concert.  You’ll never view such a concert in the same way again after reading this.

“A Book of Burlesques” provides insight into Mencken’s wry humor and his view of the world.

“Suggestions to Our Visitors” is a short spoof of what might have been called “customer service” in the early twentieth century.

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