In this fine and clearly written combination of biography and analysis, famed Baltimore writer H. L. Mencken manages to distill the life and philosophy of Nietzsche so that any layman can become acquainted with this odd German philosopher. And odd he most certainly was. Born into a family of Polish extraction, Nietzsche was never completely comfortable in the smug, religiously conservative bourgeoise German society he grew up in. Rebellion quickly followed manhood. Brilliant from the outset, Nietzsche soon made his mark with "Human, all too Human". He never looked back. First published in 1908, Mencken's critical work has been a valuable reference to the life and work of Nietzsche ever since. Many persons will find the demeaning references to women and minorities reprehensible, as they are. But it is important to keep in mind that Mencken's attitudes were typical for most Americans of his day. But the patient listener will, in the end, be rewarded by a much fuller and more rounded understanding of a philosopher some still consider to have been insane.
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"Interesting introduction to Mencken"
Mencken deserves credit for having written a book on Nietzsche at a time (1908) when almost nothing was available to English readers in translation. As an introduction to Nietzsche, however, this book is not very credible; it relies heavily on the distortions perpetuated by his sister, and does not really get into the works that more recent readers of Nietzsche treasure (The Genealogy of Morals, "The Uses and Abuses of History"). The person who's never read Mencken before (like me) will find the book valuable as a reflection of post-Victorian America, where Social Darwinism and outright racism abounded, both of which are to be found in Mencken's account. Charlton Griffin channels Mencken pretty well, embellishing the prose with oratorical and sarcastic flourishes that will definitely annoy some listeners and please others. All in all, there's not much Nietzsche to be found here, so I guess you have to take what you can get.
Charlton Griffin's narration is an over-the-top, guttural manly man's interpretation of both Mencken's crass plain dealing and Nietzsche's booming iconoclasm. The voice seems suitable for cowboy poetry, or History Channel nostalgia. For a book of philosophy, the effect accentuates the cheap melodrama in both the author and the philosopher, like a Wagnerian opera performed by a high school marching band. I can live with it, but it's a little silly.
As for the content: Mencken does not offer a nuanced reading of Nietzsche's ideas... maybe he's right, but he does have a remarkable ability of sucking the fun out of this philosopher. This book, Dionysus and philosophy by way of Baltimore, is of value to either Mencken or Nietzsche scholarship. It is not a fruitful introduction for the curious to either thinker.
"Totally missed the point"
Awful. He doesn't understand Nietzsche's philosophy at all. I gave it 2 stars because it contains some interesting stuff about Nietzsche's life, but beyond that is totally flawed.
Most grotesque is his failure to grasp what Nietzsche meant when he said "God is dead." Munchkin (as I think of him) seems to think Nietzsche advocated the search for absolute truth. He fails to grasp that to Nietzsche, God is the belief in one Truth.
When Nietzsche says, "The people haven't heard the news. That God is dead," he means that atheists are still believing in God without realising. They are worshipping Truth as an abstract concept.
Save your money and listen to the lectures of Hubert Dreyfus on Existentialism (for free) from iTunes university.
An outrageous and over the top Rich Uncle Pennybags narration renders Mencken's introduction to Nietzsche unlistenable.
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