From the Notebooks
As part of my dive into Nock, I’ve dove into the 1920s. I would watch Boardwalk Empire as part of my studies (I read a review last year that said the show has taken great efforts to reproduce the period in all its gilded extravagance, but its increasing semi-porn undercurrents forced me to give away the DVDs or spend every Saturday morning in the Confession line).
Anyway, my efforts have sent me back to H.L. Mencken. I’ve dipped into his enormous corpus occasionally over the past twenty years, always with good results. My most-recent Menckenian wanderings have likewise proven profitable and enjoyable.
Mencken had a knack to say things I think, but when he says them, they stretch from nearly 100 years ago, thereby giving them an air of authority and reverence. If he observed X in 1920, and I’m thinking X in 2012, it would seem that X has a higher chance of legitimacy. Of course, Gnostic heresies stretched from the fourth century through the Albigensians into the 20th century, so continuity by itself does not confer legitimacy, but still: one finds comfort in the like-mindedness of ghosts.
I pondered all this while reading a 1912 piece for The Smart Set about “The Nature of Vice.” This passage about drink reflects something I’ve pointed out repeatedly over the years:
“My personal experience, indeed, is that the ingestion of alcohol, in the modest quantities I affect, is not only not damaging but actually very beneficial. It produces in me a feeling of comfort, of amiability, of tolerance, of mellowness. It makes me a more humane and sympathetic, and hence a happier, man. I am able, thus mildly etherized, to enjoy and applaud many things which would otherwise baffle and alarm me. . . And that effect is not merely idiosyncratical, but universal. It appears in all normal men. Alcohol in small doses dilutes and ameliorates our native vileness.”Bookmark it: del.icio.us | Reddit | Slashdot | Digg | Facebook | Technorati | Google | StumbleUpon | Window Live | Tailrank | Furl | Netscape | Yahoo | BlinkList