David Graeber reads H. L. Mencken’s “The Libido for the Ugly”
David Graeber reads H. L. Mencken’s 1927 satiric essay about Pittsburgh architecture “The Libido for the Ugly” as I draw his portrait in my Hackney kitchen in London, at the end of winter 2012.
“The Libido for the Ugly” (1927)
by H. L. Mencken
“Here was the very heart of industrial America, the center of its most lucrative and characteristic activity, the boast and pride of the richest and grandest nation ever seen on earth–and here was a scene so dreadfully hideous, so intolerably bleak and forlorn that it reduced the whole aspiration of man to a macabre and depressing joke. Here was wealth beyond computation, almost beyond imagination–and here were human habitations so abominable that they would have disgraced a race of alley cats.”
“What I allude to is the unbroken and agonizing ugliness, the sheer revolting monstrousness, of every house in sight…churches, stores, warehouses, and the like–that they were downright startling; one blinked before them as one blinks before a man with his face shot away”
“Here is something that the psychologists have so far neglected: the love of ugliness for its own sake, the lust to make the world intolerable. Its habitat is the United States. Out of the melting pot emerges a race which hates beauty as it hates truth. The etiology of this madness deserves a great deal more study than it has got.”
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