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Before there was any such thing as political correctness, H. L. Mencken was flouting it. He was also cheerfully deriding the precursors of family values and lambasting the guardians of public virtue. This historic new collection is further evidence that Mencken was our most astute, stylish, and biliously funny commentator on the eternal American quackeries.

A Second Mencken Chrestomathy (a word meaning “a collection of choice passages from an author or authors”) was compiled by the sage of Baltimore before he suffered the stroke that ended his career and has only now been retrieved from his private papers by the columnist and Mencken biographer Terry Teachout. Its 238 selections—many of which have never before been published in book form—encompass subjects from Americana (“The Commonwealth of Morons”) to men and women (“Sex on the Stage”) and from criminology (“More and Better Psychopaths”) to the pursuit of happiness (“Alcohol”). The result is Mencken at his most engaging, maddening, heretical, and hilarious.

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