Mencken : The American Iconoclast

4.12 (136 ratings by Goodreads)
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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 most illuminating book ever published about this giant of American letters. Rodgers captures both the public and the private man, covering the many love affairs that made him known as "The German Valentino" and his happy marriage at the age of 50 to Sara Haardt, who, despite fatal illness, refused to become a victim and earned his deepest love. The book discusses his friendships, especially his complicated but stimulating partnership 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. We see the prominent role he played in the Scope's Monkey Trial, his long crusade against Prohibition, his fierce battles against press censorship, and his constant exposure of pious frauds and empty uplift. The champion of our tongue in The American Language, Mencken also played a pivotal role in defining the shape of American letters through The Smart Set and The American Mercury, magazines that introduced such writers as James Joyce, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Langston Hughes. The paradoxes of Mencken's life are explored, as new gaps are filled regarding his notorious views of minorities and his conflict, as a German-American, during two world wars. And throughout, Rodgers captures the irrepressible spirit and irreverent wit for which Mencken was famed. 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 more

Product details

  • Hardback | 672 pages
  • 160 x 234 x 52mm | 1,061.41g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 78 halftones, 13 line drawings
  • 0195072383
  • 9780195072389

About Marion Elizabeth Rodgers

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, more

Review quote

To the immense credit of Marion Elizabeth Rodgers, this splendid new biography maintains an intelligent critical distance when it comes to Mencken's manifold complexities. More tellingly, Rodger's exhaustively researched and immensely readable doorstopper of a book does shrewdly show how Mencken's career parallelled the casting-off of America's 19th century parochialism and its emergence as a brash world pweor... Rodgers juggles the dense narrative of Mencken's life and times with considerable dexterity. Rodgers has, quite simply, done him proud. Douglas Kennedy, The Independent A balanced and formidably well-iformed biography. Wendy Lesser, London Review of Books A walloping, meticulously scholarly biography. Peter Preston, The Observer Illuminating biography. Stuart B Kelly, The Scotsman Marion Elizabeth Rogers tells his life clearly and well. Mencken is well organised, with much fresh information. Nicholas Shakespeare, Daily Telegraph and overdue biography... Petronella Wyatt, Daily Mail The most superb and entertaining biography (in any field) that I've read in years, one that has "National Book Award" stamped all over it. Joseph Goulden, Washington Post USA "every journalist should read this fine biography" Christopher Silvester, Sunday Times "Marion Rodgers has written a comprehensive and humane biography." Jonathan Mirsky, Literary Review 'She is scrupulously fair, honest and realistic in this big, meticulously researched biography' Keith Richmond, Tribune a balanced and formidably well-informed biography Wendy Lesser, London Review of Booksshow more

Rating details

136 ratings
4.12 out of 5 stars
5 36% (49)
4 43% (58)
3 19% (26)
2 2% (3)
1 0% (0)
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