Overview

Ever in control, H. L. Mencken contrived that future generations would see his life as he desired them to. He even wrote Happy Days, Newspaper Days, and other books to fit the pictures he wanted: first, the carefree Baltimore boy; then, the delighted, exuberant critic of American life.

But he only told part of the truth. Over the past twenty-five years, vital collections of the writer's papers have become available, including his literary ...
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Mencken: A Life

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Overview

Ever in control, H. L. Mencken contrived that future generations would see his life as he desired them to. He even wrote Happy Days, Newspaper Days, and other books to fit the pictures he wanted: first, the carefree Baltimore boy; then, the delighted, exuberant critic of American life.

But he only told part of the truth. Over the past twenty-five years, vital collections of the writer's papers have become available, including his literary correspondence, a 2,100-page diary, equally long manuscripts about his literary and journalistic careers, and numerous accumulations of his personal correspondence. The letters and diaries of Mencken's intimates have been uncovered as well.

Now Fred Hobson has used this newly accessible material to fashion the first truly comprehensive portrait of this most original of American originals.

NOTE: This edition does not include photographs.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Relying on newly available writings from the Mencken archives, Hobson ( Serpent in Eden: H.L. Mencken and the South , 1974) has painted a fascinating portrait of the ``Billy Sunday of American literary criticism.'' In rich, and sometimes exhausting, detail, the author explores Mencken's family relationships, friendships with other writers, marriage to Sara Haardt, and manic attitude toward his work as central to the moral and political ambiguities that marked his life and work. A final chapter on Mencken's ``posthumous life'' is of particular interest. Hobson's study is an interesting companion piece to Mencken's My Life as Author and Editor (Knopf, 1992), and it will likely serve as the standard Mencken biography for many years to come. Highly recommended.-- Henry L. Carrigan Jr., Westerville P.L., Ohio
Gilbert Taylor
Tackling Mencken in all his verbal prolifigacy, pomposity, and blood-boiling opinionatedness demands sangfroid from a biographer, which, happily, Hobson has. His life is fully fleshed, benefiting from Menckenia kept secret until the past decade, including Mencken's "My Life as Author and Editor". Yet, as Hobson explains, his task was not just to fold the new into old biographies (the last one dates from 1969) but to penetrate beneath the persona that Mencken himself created, notably in his autobiographical "Days" trilogy from the 1940s. Not all was happy in his youth, and Hobson sensitively reconstructs the teenage sage-to-be, evoking a period--when his father hoped to groom him for the family's cigarmaking business--that the mature Mencken preferred to forget. Then there are Mencken's loves, including one Marion Bloom from whom he cruelly but resolutely severed relations--a habit of his when estrangement set in. Novelists such as Dreiser, Lewis, and Fitzgerald felt Mencken's lash, along with those enduring objects of his derision and invective: Rotarians, moralists, and politicians. Prejudiced? Yes, against Jews, blacks, and poor whites, concludes Hobson about this attractively infuriating elitist. Having sifted all sources and melded them into this superb profile, Hobson has captured the character, contradictions, and lasting influence of the man in what will surely become the standard biography.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307823366
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/10/2012
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 650
  • File size: 6 MB

Meet the Author

Fred Hobson is a professor of American literature at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He has written several books about the South, among them Tell About the South: The Southern Rage to Explain, a recipient of the Jules F. Landry Award, and South-Watching: Selected Essays of Gerald W. Johnson, which won the Lillian Smith Award. He is co-editor of the last of Mencken's papers opened to the public, published in Thirty-Five Years of Newspaper Work: A Memoir by H. L. Mencken, available from Johns Hopkins.

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