My Life as Author and Editor

H. L. Mencken, Author, Jonathan Yardley, Editor Alfred A. Knopf $30 (449p) ISBN 978-0-679-41315-8
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.)
Reviewed on: 01/04/1993
Release date: 01/01/1993
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