Sunday, December 25, 2016

Darryl on Hitchens and Mencken

Comments from 2011:

News Fee

How fragile we are... A great Loss.

Mr. Hitchens wrote in the tradition of Thomas Paine and George Orwell and trained his sights on targets as various as Henry Kissinger, the British monarchy…
Polly Richards Babcock and Stan Wood

Darryl Gossett One of the great journalistic curmudgeons -- the HL Mencken of our day.

December 16, 2011 at 11:40pm ·

Teresa Roney Oh, no - so much more than that. He cared enough about logic, reason and civilization - and used his only weapons - verbal swords, humor, and intelligence, to slash away at illogical and perversely irrational reasoning and actions. He didn't do this in a void. Rather, he realized that it affects the human condition, and that we suffer when issues and problems are dealt with illogically and irrationally. He understood that it matters, and that someone had to do it. It must have been painful and, perhaps, lonely at times for him, because there are so many ghastly idiots all over the place. He was a true member of the intelligentsia, and a brave, courageous soldier in that small army. He deserves the highest Medal of Honor, but I doubt that he would care about anything so ridiculous as a medal. I am in mourning.

Darryl Gossett There is nothing that you have said about Hitchens, Teresa, that is not equally true -- at least -- about Mencken. (Notwithstanding that Mencken also found time to write the seminal work on American English, to exert a profound influence on American literature in his role as literary critic and editor of "The Smart Set" and "The American Mercury," to set the model for New Journalism in his onsite coverage of the Scopes Trial [which he coined 'The Monkey Trial'], to write the first scholarly analysis of Nietsche in the English language, and to tackle over a 50-year career such topics as prohibition/temperance, women's suffrage, the idea of democracy, and ... of course, religion and its role in American life. His views on religion, and the manner in which he expressed those views were cited as inspirational by none other than Mr. Hitchens himself when he publiched "God Is Not Good."

Darryl Gossett Mencken's views on religion (particiularly the American expression of evangelical Christianity) were every bit as caustic as Hitchens', and were expressed 60 or 70 years earlier. To wit, here is his classic recap of the whole matter:To sum up:
1. The cosmos is a gigantic fly-wheel making 10,000 revolutions a minute.
2. Man is a sick fly taking a dizzy ride on it.
3. Religion is the theory that the wheel was designed and set spinning to give him the ride.

Darryl Gossett Anyway, my point is that I intended the comparison as high praise of Hitchens, particularly in regard to the pugnacious, adversarial, fearless quality of his writing. While I take issue with some of Hitches' politics (and certainly with some of Mencken's), and with the tone of callous elitism that unfortunately crept into the writing of both men, they are both thinkers that I quite enjoy taking issue with ... and I can think of no others whose words more gleefully challenge their readers to do just that.

Teresa Roney Oh I know. I'm just in mourning. I love you, Dar!

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