When H. L. Mencken talked, everyone listened -- like it or not. In the Roaring Twenties, he was the one critic who mattered, the champion of a generation of plain-speaking writers who redefined the American novel, and the ax-swinging scourge of the know-nothing, go-getting middle-class philistines whom he dubbed the "booboisie." Some loved him, others loathed him, but everybody read him. Now Terry Teachout takes on the man Edmund Wilson called "our greatest practicing literary journalist," brilliantly capturing all of Mencken's energy and erudition, passion and paradoxes, in a masterful biography of this iconoclastic figure and the world he shaped.
I love Mencken. He seems more and more relevant in these crazy political days of 2009 and 10. "Nobody every went broke underestimating the stupidity of the American people." Heh. Or how about this one: "Unquestionably, there is progress. The average American now pays out twice as much in taxes as he formerly got in wages." One more: "The men the American public admire most extravagantly are the most daring liars; the men they detest most violently are those who try to tell them the truth.
If you asked me, I couldn't tell you why I gave it 4 instead of 5 stars. I read this some time ago, and that's the impression I have of the book--a solid B+.