Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Closet novelist …

… Novel inspirations: H.L. Mencken, the bad boy of Baltimore | Spectator USA. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Some of Mencken’s best work is in the autobiographical Days series (like Dos Passos’s USA Trilogy but much better), published in the early 1940s after his ‘Tory radical’ politics had lost their charm for readers during the Depression. Somehow, even these three wonderful volumes, amounting to one of the most evocative and colorful social records of American life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, have failed to provide literary scholars with the clearest clue to the fact that Mencken was not primarily a journalist, a critic, a debunker, a satirist or even, despite his enormous and definitive The American Language, a philologist. He was all of these things, but at bottom he was a novelist working in his chosen medium — nonfiction.

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