H.L. Mencken Essays

H.L. Mencken Essays-53
During that decade and half, the years of “wonderful nonsense” that we call the Jazz Age, Mencken turned his scathing wit and rhetoric of ridicule on the political elite of American society with a sense of humor missing from today’s political journalism.

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He did well at newspapering, moving quickly from the lackluster ; but writing for a daily paper didn't begin to exhaust his prodigious energy.

He began writing books on the side, and freelance magazine pieces too.

By the time of his death, he was perhaps the leading authority on the language of his country.

Seventy years ago, one of the most influential American journalists and critics was silenced forever. He lived eight more years but could no longer write with any degree of facility and could read only with difficulty. From the end of World War I until the Great Depression, Mencken reached an audience unmatched by any other political or cultural figure in American history.

With the onslaught of the Great Depression and the rise of Franklin Roosevelt, who Mencken never really understood and seriously underestimated, the popularity and importance of What explains Mencken’s decline in popularity?

Part of the problem is that the kind of raw cynicism that he expressed is no longer acceptable.

Roosevelt and the New Deal as he had been about President Herbert Hoover and Prohibition.

Similarly, when the German culture that he had enjoyed was marred by Adolf Hitler and Nazism, Mencken was slower than some of his public to recognize it and to take the fact seriously., an attempt to bring together examples of American, rather than English, expressions and idioms. It grew with each reissue through the years, and in 19 Mencken published substantial supplements.

His career brought him into contact with the first men of his time; he preferred the company of rustic ignoramuses.” Electing Calvin Coolidge, he wrote, was like being presented with a sumptuous banquet and “staying your stomach by plucking flies out of the air.” When once asked why if he despised politics so much he wasted his time writing about it, Mencken answer was simple: “why do people go to zoos.”Mencken’s influence extended beyond the world of politics into the larger literary scene, again something no present journalist approaches.

He had a keen, if idiosyncratic, eye for good literature.


Comments H.L. Mencken Essays

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