Mencken by Marion Elizabeth Rodgers
The American Iconoclast

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Synopsis

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 a 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 Scopes 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 men.
 

About Marion Elizabeth Rodgers

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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.
 
Published November 1, 2005 by Oxford University Press. 682 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Political & Social Sciences, Education & Reference, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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As edited and richly introduced by Mencken scholar Rodgers, these are the charming, often rambunctious letters between Mencken and star-crossed Sara Haardt, his admirer and later his wife.

May 21 2012 | Read Full Review of Mencken: The American Iconoclast

Kirkus Reviews

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she does not hesitate to bring up troubling issues, and she even reveals that Mencken committed journalistic fictions worthy of Stephen Glass and Jayson Blair, including one in which he made up the details of a battle in the Russo-Japanese War—many of them, it turns out, correct, but made up all ...

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The Guardian

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Mencken: the American Iconoclast by Marion Elizabeth Rodgers Oxford University Press £19.99, pp662 Journalism, wrote HL Mencken towards the end of his career, 'is a fleeting thing, and the man who devotes his life to it writes his history in water'.

Feb 26 2006 | Read Full Review of Mencken: The American Iconoclast

Publishers Weekly

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Mencken, 42, courts Sara Haardt, 24, in these private letters, which reveal a seldom-seen considerate side of the cynical editor and critic.

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Publishers Weekly

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Mencken (1880-1956) was arguably the greatest journalist of the 20th century, and Rodgers's ( Mencken and Sara: A Life in Letters ) second book on the writer captures him at his best by concentrating on his newspaper work.

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Open Letters Monthly

Mencken distinguishes the two species further by dividing them into two cultures: the rural fundamentalist or “yokel” and the urban progressive or “proletariat.” The former is filled with evangelical fervor to stamp out “heretics” and quash vice of any kind, the latter driven by economic envy, pu...

Feb 06 2013 | Read Full Review of Mencken: The American Iconoclast

London Review of Books

The war will not only become moral over all, it will become the touchstone and standard of morality .

Jul 06 2006 | Read Full Review of Mencken: The American Iconoclast

Oxford University Press's Blog

“It is a sin to believe evil in others,” Mencken said, “but it is seldom a mistake.” Preachers, politicians, pundits and pedants — Mencken exposed the mountebanks among them with humor and courage.

Nov 09 2005 | Read Full Review of Mencken: The American Iconoclast

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