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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Playing With Fire

(by Lawrence O’Donnell) (2017) Our favourite book on the incredible 1968 Presidential election remains the superb and impartial work by visiting British journalists, An American Melodrama. But this work by leftie Lawrence is a terrific read, once you learn to shut-out the partisan noise swirling about every chapter.  There’s nothing new here except the charge of treason by Nixon over the Anna Chennault affair, which O’Donnell mines from a book by the almost equally, but less noisily, partial John A. Farrell. [For his Book Richard Nixon: The Life, Farrell has read Haldeman’s notes of conversations with Tricky Dick and implies…

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