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Tre Menckencitat för en insnöad värld

Categories: Kulturellt
Thursday, Dec 2, 2010

Vill man ha sig till livs, en sån här insnöad dag, några ytterligt väl valda, så är det alltid bäst att vända sig till mästersnickarna. En av dem – han är nog min favorit-quotee, om man kan säga så – är förstås H L Mencken: i senaste TLS recenseras Library of Americautgåvan av hans journalistik.

Här sågar t.ex. Mencken “the Kansas litérateur” William Allen White:

If William Allen White lives as long as Tennyson, and does not reform, our grandchildren will see the Victorian era gasping out its last breath in 1951. And eighty-three is no great age in Kansas, where sin is unknown. It may be, in fact, 1960, or even 1970, before the world hears the last of Honest Poverty, Chaste Affection and Manly Tears. For so long as White holds a pen these ancient sweets will be on sale at the department-store book-counters, and they will grow sweeter and sweeter . . . . If you yearn to uplift and like to sob, then the volume [In the Heart of a Fool] will probably affect you, in the incomparable phrase of Clayton Hamilton, like “the music of a million Easter-lilies leaping from the grave and laughing with a silver singing.” But if you are a carnal fellow, as I am, with a stomach ruined by alcohol, it will gag you.

Men han är nästan bäst när han helt enkelt skriver om hur det är att leva i Amerika på 1920-talet:

Here, more than anywhere else that I know of or have heard of, the daily panorama of human existence, of private and communal folly – the unending procession of governmental extortions and chicaneries, of commercial brigandages and throat-slittings, of theological buffooneries, or aesthetic ribaldries, of legal swindles and harlotries, of miscellaneous rogueries, villainies, imbecilities, grotesqueries, and extravagances – is so inordinately gross and preposterous, so perfectly brought up to the highest conceivable amperage, so steadily enriched with an almost fabulous daring and originality, that only the man who was born with a petrified diaphragm can fail to laugh himself to sleep every night, and to awake every morning with all the eager, unflagging expectation of a Sunday-school superintendent touring the Paris peep-shows.

Det är alltså inte att undra på att svärtan ibland helt tog över det han skrev:

Man cannot sit still, contemplating his destiny in this world, without going frantic. So he invents ways to take his mind off the horror. He works. He plays. He accumulates the preposterous nothing called property. He strives for the coy eye-wink called fame. He founds a family and spreads his curse over others. All the while the thing that moves him is simply the yearning to lose himself, to forget himself, to escape the tragic-comedy that is himself. Life, fundamentally, is not worth living.

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