Mencken: The American Iconoclast

Mencken: The American Iconoclast

by Marion Elizabeth Rodgers


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A towering figure on the American cultural landscape, H.L. Mencken stands out as one of our most influential stylists and fearless iconoclasts—the twentieth century's greatest newspaper journalist, a famous wit, and a constant figure of controversy.
Marion Elizabeth Rodgers has written the definitive biography of Mencken, the finest book ever published about this giant of American letters. Rodgers illuminates both the public and the private man, covering the many love affairs, his happy marriage at the age of 50 to Sara Haardt, and his complicated but stimulating friendship with the famed theater critic George Jean Nathan. Rodgers vividly recreates Mencken's era: the glittering tapestry of turn-of-the-century America, the roaring twenties, depressed thirties, and the home front during World War II. But the heart of the book is Mencken. When few dared to shatter complacencies, Mencken fought for civil liberties and free speech, playing a prominent role in the Scope's Monkey Trial, battling against press censorship, and exposing pious frauds and empty uplift. The champion of our tongue in The American Language, Mencken also played a pivotal role in defining American letters through The Smart Set and The American Mercury, magazines that introduced such writers as James Joyce, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Langston Hughes.
Drawing on research in more than sixty archives including private collections in the United States and in Germany, previously unseen, on exclusive interviews with Mencken's friends, and on his love letters and FBI files, here is the full portrait of one of America's most colorful and influential men.

"This biography, the best ever on the sage of Baltimore, is exhaustive but never exhausting, and offers readers more than moderate intelligence and an awfully good time."
—Martin Nolan, Boston Globe

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780195331295
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 09/10/2007
Pages: 672
Product dimensions: 8.90(w) x 5.60(h) x 1.80(d)

About the Author

Marion Elizabeth Rodgers has edited Mencken and Sara: A Life in Letters and The Impossible H.L. Mencken, a popular collection of his best journalism. She lives in Washington, DC.

Table of Contents

Prologue: Boston, 1926
Part One: 1880-1914
1. The Citizen of Baltimore
2. The Eternal Boy
3. August Mencken & Bro
4. Baltimore and Beyond
5. Terse and Terrible Texts
6. Plays and Players
7. The Great Baltimore Fire
8. A Man of Ability
9. A Young Man in a Hurry
10. Broadening Horizons
11. The Bad Boy of Baltimore
12. Outside, Looking In
Part Two: 1914-1919
13. The Holy Terror
14. Mencken, Nathan, and God
15. Round One!
16. Berlin, 1917
17. The Prevailing Winds
18. Over Here
19. The Infernal Feminine
Part Three: 1920-1930
20. The Dry Millennium Dawns
21. Of Politics and Prose
22. That Man in Baltimore
23. The Duel of Sex
24. Old Discord and New Alliances
25. The Scopes Trial
26. In the Crucible
27. Banned in Boston
28. The Great God Mencken
29. A Sentimental Journey
30. The German Valentino
31. The Sea of Matrimony
32. Variations on a Familiar Theme
Part Four: 1930-1935
33. The Tamed Ogre of Cathedral Street
34. Hard Times
35. "Happy Days are Here Again"
36. Maryland, My Maryland
37. The Tune Changes
38. The Late Mr. Mencken
39. A Time to Be Wary
40. A Winter of Horror
Part Five: 1936-1940
41. Baltimore's Friendly Dragon
42. Mencken as Boss
43. Berlin, 1938
44. Polemics and Prejudices
45. Triumph of Democracy
Part Six: 1941-1948
46. The Weapon of Silence
47. On the Home Front
48. Mencken and the Guild
49. Friends and Relatives
50. The Man Who Hates Everything
51. The Great Upset of 1948
Part Seven: 1949-1956
52. The Last Days
Epilogue: The Passing of an Era

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Mencken: The American Iconoclast 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
gedCA More than 1 year ago
“He pummeled censorship, Prohibition, and hypocritical Puritanism with equal ardor. The defense of individual freedom always brought out the best of his powers, and the suppression of civil liberties became one of his dominant targets, bringing it more fully into the mainstream of public discourse.”—page 227/673 Standard disclaimer: In my personal pantheon of heroes, Henry Louis Mencken has long been idealized, lionized, and even damn near canonized, as one of the all-time truly great Americans. A free thinking wordsmith/linguist extraordinaire and an adorably charismatic curmudgeon, Mencken was one of those incredible people, among the likes of Mark Twain, P. T. Barnum and Clarence Darrow, with whom I could dearly wish to have been friends. In her comprehensive ‘warts-an’-all’ biography, MENCKEN: THE AMERICAN ICONOCLASTS: The Life and Times of the Bad Boy of Baltimore, Marion Elizabeth Rodgers hits all the notes of wonder, wit, wisdom, and weirdness. I enjoyed reading it tremendously. Recommendation: What’s not to love about HLM? There’s something in his character and writings to offend practically everyone. Commended more so to the thick-skinned than the thickheaded. “I am, in belief, a libertarian of the most extreme variety, and can imagine no human right that is half as valuable as the simple right to pursue the truth at discretion and utter it when found.”—page 116/673 “I have believed all my life in free thought and free speech.”—page 564/673 Barnes & Noble NOOKbook edition, 673 pages"