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  • Writer's pictureJack McDevitt

Blog #78

The Constant Circle is a biography of H.L. Mencken, written by a longtime friend, Sara Mayfield. She was also a close friend of Sara Haardt, who, in 1930, became Mrs. Mencken. Mencken of course was a prime editor, journalist, and author of the era. He opened fire not only on some literary works, but on the various hypocrisies and bigotry of the period. He saw prohibition as a hallmark for stupidity. Politicians were hard to live with, and he saw those who lectured us on living the moral life as being all too often themselves breakers of the rules.

Mencken had personal relations with many of the principal figures of the era, including George Jean Nathan, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Eugene O’Neill, Sinclair Lewis and Dorothy Thompson, Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald, and Willa Cather. He had connections with every president from Woodrow Wilson to Harry Truman. Everyone who was having an impact on American society seems to have been present in his life. The only one of my own favorite writers of the era who doesn’t seem to have shown up is James Thurber.

I recommend the book. It’s as enjoyable as any I’ve come across. Ever. And I suggest that anyone interested in trying it start first with Mencken’s Chrestomathy. That will provide a sense of who he was. As well as a lot of laughs. And insight. Then leave it to Sara Mayfield to provide the rest of the picture.

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