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Reading these reviews and essays now, we get a surprising sense of how little book publishing has changed since 1908. The New York Times bestsellers, then as now, were mostly escapist dreck: The Sheik, Fate Knocks at the Door, Bambi. Nor has readership drastically changed. “Nine-tenths of our readers of books are women and nine-tenths of our women get their literary standards from the Ladies Home Journal.” Insert Oprah for the Ladies Home Journal and the sentence would stand today.
Only the most puritanical women’s-libber or backwoods Methodist clergyman would see anything objectionable in these reviews. To find similar prose that is as honest, straightforward and unblemished by the stain of political correctness, one would have to go back quite a ways, to Mencken’s Prejudices in fact. Mencken put great store on the role of the critic in society to protect the public against frauds and quackery. Sadly today that duty has been largely abandoned, which perhaps explains the proliferation of fraudulent ideas popular in contemporary society. And those reviews that do appear in the incredible-shrinking book review sections often resemble something more akin to PR copy than honest critique. Fortunately for us, Mencken was never in the least squeamish or regretful of his attacks. “The quacks and dolts who have been mauled in these pages all deserved it; more, they all deserved far worse than they got.”
Almost a hundred years later, Mencken’s reviews remain accessible and eminently readable. Time has not yellowed his prose, mellowed his criticism or, thank Allah, dulled his axe.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?