In this Book
- An Infuriating American: The Incendiary Arts of H. L. Mencken
- Published by: University of Iowa Press
- Series: Muse Books
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Nearly 60 years after his death, Mencken’s memory and monumental verbal legacy rest largely in the hands of literary scholars and historians, to whom he will always be a curious figure, unchecked and alien and not a little distasteful. No faculty would have voted him tenure. Hal Crowther, who followed in many of Mencken’s footsteps as a reporter, magazine editor, literary critic, and political columnist, focuses on Mencken the creator, the observer who turned his impressions and prejudices into an inimitable group portrait of America, painted in prose that charms and glowers and endures. Crowther, himself a working polemicist who was awarded the Baltimore Sun’s Mencken prize for truculent commentary, examines the origin of Mencken’s thunderbolts—where and how they were manufactured, rather than where and on whom they landed.
Mencken was such an outrageous original that contemporary writers have made him a political shuttlecock, defaming or defending him according to modern conventions he never encountered. Crowther argues that loving or hating him, admiring or despising him are scarcely relevant. Mencken can inspire and he can appall. The point is that he mattered, at one time enormously, and had a lasting effect on the national conversation. No writer can afford to ignore his craftsmanship or success, or fail to be fascinated by his strange mind and the world that produced it. This book is a tribute—though by no means a loving one—to a giant from one of his bastard sons.