The Skeptic
by Terry Teachout

A politically correct biography of H. L. Mencken, which praises his writing style and criticizes the substance of what he wrote. It also criticizes him for having private thoughts that are not always flattering to Jews, FDR, and the two world wars that made the world safe for democracy. It labels him an anti-Semite, although it acknowledges that he publicly defended the rights of Jews. It also criticizes his literary judgment on the grounds that some of the writers he didnít like are now highly regarded and some that he praised are not, as if popularity now is proof of literary worth.

He points out some contradictions in Menckenís philosophy: (1) he claimed not to believe in truth or morality, but in his personal life he was a relatively honest and moral man and (2) he wrote like a radical, but lived like typical bougeois American. The first contradiction shows a real defect in Menckenís philosophy. The second is not a contradiction at all.

This book is not all bad. Three quarters of it is actually fair, insightful, and informative. It includes interesting details of Menckenís life that I wasnít aware of before. It is carefully researched. It mentions several times that Mencken was a libertarian.

Year Read: 2004


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