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My Life as Author and Editor

by H. L. Mencken Jonathan Yardley

H. L. Mencken stipulated in his will that the manuscript not be read for thirty-five years so that no one mentioned in its pages would still be alive on publication, thus giving the author the freedom to write what he pleased. The narrative contains many profiles and reminiscences covering Mencken's years in the magazine world, particularly with the "Smart Set", which he co-edited with George Jean Nathan. The heart of the book, however, lies in the descriptions of the relationships - rivalries, feuds, friendships and mentorships - that Mencken carried on with many of the significant writers of the twentieth century, including Theodore Dreiser, James Joyce, Willa Cather, Ezra Pound, Eugene O'Neill, Frank Harris, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Aldous Huxley and Sinclair Lewis. Full of wonderfully revealing anecdotes and biting observations, these pages are spiked with his trademark outrageous and pugnacious wit, as well as his alarming frankness. Although the memoir breaks off in the early 1920's because of a stroke he suffered in 1948, it contributes significantly to our understanding of the legendary literary era of which he was at the center. It also makes abundantly clear -- if proof were ever needed -- why he was our greatest social commentator, and why he has had an enduring impact on American society and letters.

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