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Posted October 16, 2002
A Fresh Look at America's Greatest Journalist
"The Skeptic: A Life of H.L. Mencken," in the works for ten years, is a major new biography of America's greatest journalist. In it, I¿ve made extensive use of Mencken's private papers (many of them put under time seal at his death in 1956) to draw a full-length portrait of the newspaperman turned literary critic who co-edited the Smart Set and co-founded the American Mercury, coined the phrase "Bible belt," covered the Scopes evolution trial for the Baltimore Sun, invented the modern newspaper column, and courted controversy throughout the whole of his half-century-long career. My book is thorough, yet unusually concise for a modern biography¿just 411 pages long¿and I¿ve tried to give it the immediacy and sweep of a good novel. I¿ve taken a fresh look at every facet of Mencken¿s public and private life: his ruthless ambition, his uneasy relations with women, his virtues and defects as an editor, his passion for the American language, his twin obsessions with Germany and the Jews. Above all, "The Skeptic" is written from the point of view of a working journalist who understands H.L. Mencken¿s world. Like him, I¿m a critic with a wide-ranging knowledge of the arts, and I¿ve seen American newspapers and magazines from the inside. I¿ve done my best to bring my own experience to bear on the task of telling the story of a complicated, self-contradictory man. I¿ve sought to write about him both sympathetically and honestly. I hope you like the results.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.