Mencken: The American Iconoclast

By Marion Elizabeth Rodgers

A towering determine at the American cultural panorama, H.L. Mencken sticks out as one among our such a lot influential stylists and fearless iconoclasts--the 20th century's maximum newspaper journalist, a recognized wit, and a continuing determine of controversy.
Marion Elizabeth Rodgers has written the definitive biography of Mencken, the main illuminating booklet ever released approximately this significant of yank letters. Rodgers captures either the general public and the non-public guy, overlaying the various amorous affairs that made him often called "The German Valentino" and his satisfied marriage on the age of fifty to Sara Haardt, who, regardless of a deadly affliction, refused to develop into a sufferer and earned his private love. The booklet discusses his friendships, specifically his complex yet stimulating partnership with the famed theater critic George Jean Nathan. Rodgers vividly recreates Mencken's period: the glittering tapestry of turn-of-the-century the US, the roaring twenties, depressed thirties, and the house entrance in the course of international conflict II. however the middle of the publication is Mencken. whilst few dared to shatter complacencies, Mencken fought for civil liberties and unfastened speech. We see the popular function he performed within the Scopes Monkey Trial, his lengthy campaign opposed to Prohibition, his fierce battles opposed to press censorship, and his consistent publicity of pious frauds and empty uplift. The champion of our tongue in The American Language, Mencken additionally performed a pivotal position in defining the form of yank letters via The clever Set and The American Mercury, magazines that brought such writers as James Joyce, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Langston Hughes. The paradoxes of Mencken's existence are explored, as new gaps are stuffed concerning his infamous perspectives of minorities and his clash, as a German American, in the course of global wars. And all through, Rodgers captures the irrepressible spirit and irreverent wit for which Mencken was once famed.
Drawing on examine in additional than sixty documents together with deepest collections within the usa and in Germany, formerly unseen, on unique interviews with Mencken's neighbors, and on his love letters and FBI records, here's the entire portrait of 1 of America's so much colourful and influential males.

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Briefly, I all at once locate myself very lonely in New York,” Mencken wrote on the time. nevertheless, many may well always remember Mencken’s acts of generosity in the course of these years: buddies who got convenience in felony; or the soldier, stationed at an army camp, who were invited to partake within the Saturday evening membership. “Mencken knew i used to be lonely, and observed to it that i used to be taken into the bosom of his little musical and beer-drinking team. The man’s middle and soul are even greater than his brain. ”11 in the course of those TROUBLING DAYS Mencken met Philip Goodman, a Philadelphian who shared his devotion to Germany. Goodman had moved to ny to enter ads; he quickly turned one of many optimum paid experts within the kingdom. yet he later made his fortune in musicals, introducing W. C. Fields to the realm with Poppy. quickly, Goodman’s The 5 O’Clock woman turned one of many favourite exhibits on Broadway. Mencken and Goodman took to one another on very brief acquaintance. Like every thing else approximately him—in dimension, urge for food, and generosity—Goodman suggestion mammoth. He wore a derby hat a little cocked, a pricey walrus-skin coat, and used to be good-looking, thick, and stocky, with, as James Cain positioned it, “a boulevardish air that perfectly captivated Mencken. ” additionally, because the fabricated from a German Jewish heritage, he used to be in love with all issues German. As his daughter Ruth recalled, either males “came jointly believing that Germany used to be the main cultured kingdom in Europe and that England consisted of a pile of frauds. ”12 For his half, Goodman appeared as much as Mencken as an individual who had made journalism right into a fantastic artwork. Functioning in short as a writer, he introduced out Mencken’s subsequent publication, rattling! A ebook of Calumny, on the market at in drugstores—an formidable scheme sooner than its time. The booklet did not allure readers, however it did allure exposure. so much critics looked as if it would base their reports at the name, with no bothering to learn the publication, and seen it as cynical and immoral. “Imagine such hole platitudes stunning somebody! ” commented Mencken. His first actual bankruptcy all started particularly innocently, or so he proposal: If George Washington have been alive this present day, what a shining mark he will be for the total camorra of uplifters, forward-lookers patriots! …He used to be no longer pious. He drank whisky every time he felt cold, and stored a jug of it convenient. He knew way more profanity than Scripture, and used it and loved it more…. He took little interest in the personal morals of his pals. Inhabiting those States this present day, George will be ineligible to any place of work of honor or revenue. The Senate could by no means dare make certain him; the President wouldn't contemplate nominating him … the Methodists of his local kingdom will be denouncing him (he had a nonetheless at Mount Vernon) as a debaucher of youth…. And what an opportunity there will be for that bold younger district lawyer who proposal to shadow him on his peregrinations—and seize him below the Mann Act! unavoidably, a criticism used to be despatched to the dept of Justice. “I stumbled on a vicious and atrocious assault upon George Washington in a ebook known as ‘Damn’ via one H.

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