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November 13, 2005

With Charity Toward None

(a fond look at misanthropy)
Florence King – ISBN 0312071248

“Misanthropy is a realistic attitude toward human nature that falls short of the incontinent emotional dependency expressed by Barbara Streisand’s anthem to insecurity: ‘Peepul who need peepul are the luckiest peepul in the world.’”

No longer in print, but available used, it a witty and insightful book to read. She gleefully attacks joiners, sensitive souls, do-gooders, the young-at-heart and myriad others.

Some brand her a modern Mencken, others “the best since Wil Rogers,” and still more compare her to Ambrose Bierce. In fact she is better than any of them--indeed better than all of them. She not only is the best of the genre, she has one all to herself ! “Peerless” is a word which might have been invented for her.

A misanthropic curmudgeon of the highest order she explores the subject in detail, dissecting the feminization of America along with the “niceness” of this mind-set, which results in “a soft, sickly, helpless tolerance of everything.”

Special rancor is used as she reviews smoking: “the only evil that cannot be blamed on white males. Red men started it, but nobody will say so because that would be racist.”

“Tender misanthropes” despise men in general, but are always seeking real people. Finding none they fantasize the creation of these people through social and political programs of their design. Critical to this exercise is Rousseau’s sensibility. “Seeing how much American madness can be traced back to Jean-Jacques Rousseau is like seeing how many words can be formed from antidisestablishmentarianism. In both cases the answer is: a lot!”

Nothing, she notes (e.g. Richard Nixon) is more stressful than a misanthrope trying to be nice with no end in sight. She exposes the dirty little secret that most people harbor a “secret affection for anyone harboring a low opinion of humanity.”

She stands on its head the old axiom: “if you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything at all.” Her analysis is as instructive as it is critical. Clinton claimed to “focus like a laser.” He should take lessons from King.

Extremists, right and left, are cut from the same cloth. She spares neither! “Don’t believe without evidence. . . . Do not trust humanity without collateral security.”

An informative exploration of the subject, even if you disagree with her—a difficult task since she is so explicit and well organized. You might find yourself changing your mind.

Other books by King:
Southern Ladies and Gentlemen
Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady
Florence King Reader
Lump it or Leave it
Reflections in a Jaundiced Eye
STET: Damnit
(All are still in print, her latest being STET, which is King at her final best. She's now retired, damnit!)


Posted by respeto at November 13, 2005 3:36 PM