H. L. Mencken and Crap Towns

September 12, 2018 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Non-Fiction, TRAVEL, WRITING & LITERATURE |

H. L. Mencken (12 September 1880) There’s a splendid English book called Crap Towns.  Lovingly referred to by ‘The Sunday Telegraph’ as “The Domesday book of misery” it celebrates awful urban constructs, from Luton to Hull to Bury St Edmonds.  TVC once thought to produce an Australian edition, covering such lively towns as Mt Druitt and Wilcannia, NSW, and Millicent, SA. But the great H.L. Mencken beat us all to it.  In his 1928 article, The Libido for the Ugly, Mencken canvasses the ugliest towns in the USA: “I have seen, I believe, all of the most unlovely towns of…

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H. L. Mencken and Götterdämmerung

September 11, 2018 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | LIFE, METAPHYSICS, Non-Fiction |

Wotan's ravens (by Arthur Rackham)

H.L.Mencken, 12 September, 1880 Mencken buried lots of idols, icons, and foolish ideas.  He also buried a swathe of gods: “Huitzilopochtli…was born of an apparently innocent flirtation that [his mother, a virtuous widow] carried on with the sun…But to-day Huitzilopochtli is as Marie Corelli. Once the peer of Allah, Buddha and Wotan, he is now the peer of Father Rasputin, J.B. Planché, Sadi Carnot, General Boulanger, Lottie Collins, and Little Tich.”* Mencken goes on to list some 114 gods and comments: “They were gods of the highest standing and dignity – gods of civilized peoples – worshipped and believed in by…

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In Search of Wagner

The sentimental Marat

(By Theodor Adorno) (written 1937-38) (Rodney Livingstone translation) (2005) Whilst Adorno (1903 – 1969) was a thinker of wide learning and deep perception, here he is defeated by Wagner, as well as by his own Frankfurter-Marxist dogma and drab obsession with the dialectical. He’d love to dismiss RW as repulsive, dangerous, tin-eared, a Jew-baiter and Jew-hater, formless and, worst of all, bourgeois; yet a kind of intellectual honesty keeps creeping-back in to Adorno’s highly profound skull that undermines all of his grumbling. Wagner is not only sui generis; he is unimpeachable; Adorno’s brilliant attacks, often highly personal, fail utterly, proving…

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10 Birthdays and A Funeral

'We have to make a birthday tea for 10 and a funeral tea...'

20 March – a big day in cultural history: 43 BC – Ovid “Take your fill of amusement, but cast the veil of modesty over your peccadilloes. Never make a parade of your good fortune, and never give a woman a present that another woman will recognise.” [The Art of Love] “Death is not accustomed to injure genius, and greater fame arrives after we have become ashes…” [Epistle to an Envious Man]. 1828 – Henrik Ibsen “SOLNESS: Human beings haven’t any use for these homes of theirs. Not for being happy in. And I shouldn’t have had use for a…

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Venetian Voices

Photo by Jörg Bittner (Unna)

(by Christine V. Courtney) (2017) Venice is of a set, in that it is a Great City, but it is also sui generis, a brilliant bauble set amid a swamp, a rococo castle in the air, an ornate pagoda floating on water. Venice and its inhabitants, whether citizens or arrivistes, spell romance on a myriad levels, and pose a historical jigsaw of massive scope and complexity, so it makes sense to wander its narrow streets and sail its intricate waterways clutching some sort of evocative Baedeker.  Our favourite Venetian history is the massive Folio tome (merging two volumes) by John Julius Norwich…

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