Monday, July 28, 2014

Hal Crowther on H.L. Mencken: 'Most hated man in America'


H.L. Mencken
I asked prize-winning syndicated columnist Hal Crowther of Hillsboro what exactly he likes so much about H.L. Mencken. Crowther's study, "An Infuriating American: The Incendiary Arts of H.L. Mencken," will be out from the University of Iowa Press in October. His answer:

There's nothing I like so much about H.L. Mencken. He was widely regarded as the most hated man in America in the '20s and '30s and that was long before they published his letters and journals, which reviled nearly everyone and betrayed most of his friends. Not a sweetheart. It seems to me that no one who knows his work well would like him. Rather, we respect him, we tend to hold him in awe -- for English prose unmatched by any journalist of his time or ours, for his unprecedented readership that included nearly all educated and skeptical Americans for several generations, for the outrageous courage to ridicule every sacred cow back when those cows were truly sacred -- democracy, religion, patriotism, capitalism, idealism, agrarianism, chastity, sobriety. Name it and he mocked it, including World War I. He rooted for the Kaiser. Somehow, he was never lynched, jailed or even assaulted. He was the last fearless, powerful, unavoidable independent voice of the free press the Founders intended, and to a large extent this book is a lament for the loss of such voices, as it becomes clear that we'll never hear any more, and that the balance of power they provided is gone forever. It's nearly impossible to feel affection for Mencken, but it's irresponsible -- for any American -- not to read him.          

1 comments:

Anonymous said...

In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican.


A cynic is a man who, when he smells flowers, looks around for a coffin.