Mencken: A Life

Overview

When H. L. Mencken died in 1956, he left behind well-ordered diaries, letters, and personal papers that biographer Fred Hobson has collected in the definitive portrait of a complex and colorful life. In Mencken: A Life, Hobson quotes liberally from Mencken's writings on every subject, from Americans ("the most timorous, sniveling, poltroonish, ignominious mob of serfs and goose-steppers ever gathered under one flag") to the English ("England gave us Puritanism, Germany gave us Pilsner"), from his thoughts on Jews...

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Mencken: A Life

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Overview

When H. L. Mencken died in 1956, he left behind well-ordered diaries, letters, and personal papers that biographer Fred Hobson has collected in the definitive portrait of a complex and colorful life. In Mencken: A Life, Hobson quotes liberally from Mencken's writings on every subject, from Americans ("the most timorous, sniveling, poltroonish, ignominious mob of serfs and goose-steppers ever gathered under one flag") to the English ("England gave us Puritanism, Germany gave us Pilsner"), from his thoughts on Jews (both "the most unpleasant race ever heard of" and "the chief dreamers of the human race, and beyond all comparison its greatest poets") to Puritanism ("that haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy"). Along with Mencken's well-known literary slashings at the "boobsoisie" -- with his trademark political "incorrectitude" -- Hobson's access to thousands of pages of personal manuscripts allows a broad and thoughtful look at the demons and affections of the personal life of the Sage of Baltimore. The result is a picture that would satisfy even its subject's critical eye.

"A beautifully crafted, thoroughly entertaining and intellectually unsentimental book that even Mencken might find met his standards." -- Jack W. Germond, The Baltimore Sun

"Mencken is a comprehensive yet bracingly readable effort that will delight readers as a cold glass of pilsner would have refreshed its subject on a summer's day." -- Martin F. Nolan, The Boston Globe

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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
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780736629478
  • Publisher: Books on Tape, Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/1/1995
  • Format: Cassette
  • Edition description: Unabridged

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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