My Life as Author and Editor

My Life as Author and Editor

by H. L. Mencken
     
 

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H. L. Mencken stipulated that this memoir remain sealed in a vault for thirty-five years after his death. For good reason: My Life as Author and Editor is so telling and uproariously opinionated that is might have provoked a storm of libel suits. As he recounts his career as a critic, essayist, and editor of the ground-breaking magazine Smart Set,

Overview

H. L. Mencken stipulated that this memoir remain sealed in a vault for thirty-five years after his death. For good reason: My Life as Author and Editor is so telling and uproariously opinionated that is might have provoked a storm of libel suits. As he recounts his career as a critic, essayist, and editor of the ground-breaking magazine Smart Set, Mencken brings us face to face with the literary aristocracy of his day, from the dour womanizer Theodore Dreiser to F. Scott Fitzgerald, drowning his gifts in alcohol. Here, too, are the hacks, poseurs, and bohemian crackpots who flocked around them. Most of all, here is Mencken himself, defying censors and Prohibition agents with equal aplomb in an age when literature was a contact sport.

Editorial Reviews

Chicago Sun-Times
"Well worth the wait . . . irreverent, inimitable, often outrageous . . . and, above all, compelling."--Chicago Sun-Times.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Mencken's unfinished, leisurely memoir, which he set aside in 1948 following a severe stroke and ordered locked away for 35 years after his death, covers his literary apprenticeship, his co-editorship of The Smart Set and his feuds and friendships with Theodore Dreiser, Sinclair Lewis, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, Alfred Knopf and others. There is much of the bellicose Mencken here, lamenting ``the always dipping curve of American imbecility,'' deflating the Algonquin Roundtable literati and offering ruthlessly candid literary portraits. Yet, along with the dour sage of Baltimore, we get Mencken the vivacious gadabout, tippler and admirer of women as his intellectual equals. Mencken annoys with his frequent anti-Semitic remarks, his pro-German stance in WW I and other prejudices. Washington Post book critic Yardley, who has trimmed the original manuscript by 60%, provides an informative introduction to this period piece, which focuses on the years 1908-1923, with forays into the '30s and '40s. (Jan.)
Gilbert Taylor
After reposing for 35 years, Mencken's editorial reflections are in hand, as hot to the touch as any of his previous controversial writings. Mencken's amusing arrogance is here in large-caliber doses, touched off by his indomitable unwillingness to sympathize with human folly and ignorance. The main exponents of such imbecility are "do-gooders in general practice," bulwarks of virtue, and censors. One of the last once hauled before court on an obscenity charge Mencken's pulp magazine catering to the "booboisie," the "Parisienne Monthly". Mencken's lawyer gained acquittal the old-fashioned way, by bribing the judge. Mencken's narrative of the incident embodies his archly brusque honesty, which is fully vented in telling of his salad days as coeditor of the "Smart Set: A Magazine of Cleverness", which folded in 1923. That date closes the memoir, for Mencken's stroke precluded recollections of his first publishing effort, "American Mercury". Nonetheless, this memoir contains hilarious stories of beery evenings on the New York literary circuit, a vocabulary capacious enough to require the immediate assistance of a dictionary (to look up "brummagen" and "objurgation"), and a fund of derogatory epithets certain to pose anew questions about Mencken's disdain for women and Jews. The public at last can make their own inspection.
Kirkus Reviews
The unmistakable iconoclasm of Mencken resounds again in this memoir of his early days in the literary trade. The original 1,000- page manuscript, sealed in a vault for 35 years after Mencken's death, has been trimmed 60 percent by Pulitzer-winning book-critic Yardley (Our Kind of People, 1989, etc.). Many of the deleted passages evidently dwelled on the trivial—and even in the finished product only an accountant could love Mencken's itemizations of his financial affairs. Admirers might wish that Yardley had also used the blue pencil on the casually flagrant stereotypes that litter this memoir much as they did The Diary of H.L. Mencken (1989), particularly those brief but pungent comments like the one about publisher Philip Goodman, who remained Mencken's friend "until the shattering impact of Hitler made him turn Jewish on me." The autobiography lacks some of the raffish nostalgia of Mencken's Days trilogy, an absence reflecting bitterness over America's second war with his beloved Germany, but it still offers an invaluable record of Mencken's impact on American letters until the early 1920's (a 1948 stroke prevented him from chronicling his stewardship of the American Mercury and his later journalism). Mencken is justifiably proud of how he and George Jean Nathan turned the cash-starved Smart Set into a forum for America's brightest newcomers. He cheerfully recalls the feuds and quirks (often alcohol-induced) of now-obscure neophytes, as well as of the more famous, including Scott Fitzgerald, Sinclair Lewis, Willa Cather, Ezra Pound, and Aldous Huxley. Mencken's description of his stormy friendship with Theodore Dreiser is masterful, as admiring of the latter's clumsy genius asit is exasperated with his oafishness ("Whenever an obvious fact competed for his attention with a sonorous piece of nonsense, he went for the nonsense"). Often comically brilliant in detailing Mencken's "sharp and more or less truculent dissent from the mores of my country"—and always brutally frank about others' foibles and his own prejudices.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307808882
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
12/21/2011
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
484
File size:
3 MB

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