With Charity toward None Paperback – 1 Jan 1920
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This book has a contents, unfortunately there is no index but there is a bibliography with introductory passages and a list of references, with stars marking those which the author particularly enjoyed herself and would recommend to other readers (including Irving Babbit, Russell Kirk, Simon Schama).
The style and pace of the read I did not find to be particularly consistent, with some chapters I enjoyed a lot more than others, the first chapters I felt were distinctly aimed at the author's target audience of Americans, small town conservatives or curmudgeons and deal with seeming paradoxes such as the legend of souther American hospitality given that they dont appreciate the influx of people moving out of the cities. It is proceeding through these chapters that King develops her own theories and sets out her own idiosyncratic stall for misanthropy, describing there are being "tender", largely compelled by feeling and sometimes disappointment or disillusionment, misanthropes and then "intellect" driven misanthropes, those who think their way to misanthropy.
By far I thought the greatest chapters were the later ones in which King presents a number of short biographies or character sketches of the people she believes conform best to her theory, these were very interesting and while a selection from historical sources and celebrity or superstar renown do seem to bare out very well what King has said. Although this is no real research project with theories proffered and data fielded which could prove readable but the whole time lead the reader to suspect confirmation bias at work. This is more a literary work or tribute, as the subtitle of the book itself says, a "fond look" with some of the introduction and some of the epilogue leading the reader to suspect it is semi-autobiographical, a product of King's own reflection and response to others labelling her (I have not read any of King's other books and would only be vaguely familiar with her political perspective which I believe is similar to pop-conservatives like PJ O'Rourke but nothing like Ann Coulter).
The book does present the good, the bad and the ugly in a certain sense, King presents the tender and intellect driven misanthropes, does not engage in any kind of phoney valourisation of individuals she clearly admires a lot, something I can respect her for. I actually enjoyed the chapter on Ayn Rand and I hate that author and all her work with a passion.
The chapters on individuals who posed as witch doctors and choose the companionship of great apes and wildlife over people only to end up murdered in their beds were something a little marvellous in the recounting of a mix of misadventure and ill temperament. Likewise the chapters of totally little known historical figures, such as totally raging Frenchmen from Rousseau (actually there is some of the best material on Rousseau and the cultural mileau and ferment of the French revolution and after, and the long shadow it casts through left vs. right traditions and politics right up to today, that I have ever read) right through to bonkers pseudo-fascists. I absolutely loved the critical eye to one biographer who attempted apologetics for one raging misanthrope by saying that while the seemed to hate people and the world so much they had a great "love of life".
It is not all simple homage though, King includes a piece about misanthropes she could not warm to at all, this is pretty much the "ugly" of the set. Man are they ugly too. I had heard about some of the early icons of baseball being violent or savage but I had thought it was restricted to the field and really meant hard nosed competitiveness, in that I clearly was mistaken. These are totally unlikeable individuals but unmistakeably misanthropic, which King doesnt shrink from.
I did like this book and I would recommend it but there are chapters which are stronger than others, it is also an idiosyncratic collection by an American, I suspect pretty much for an American audience and perhaps an established readership. That said it could be an interesting read of a particular tone and temperament which would resonate with many readers.