What keeps me going at my trade, I suppose, is my continuous curiosity, my endless interest in the stupendous farce of human existence. It is the principal and perhaps only stock of a journalist: when it begins to slip from him he is fit only for the knacker’s yard. To be short of ideas is an experience that I have yet to suffer; it is, indeed, almost incomprehensible to me. Short of ideas in the Republic of today? As well try to imagine a Prohibition enforcement officer short of money! They dart and bang about one’s ears like electrons in a molecule. A thousand new ones are born every day.
H. L. Mencken ~ “Off the Grand Banks” (edited by S. T. Joshi)
My favorite books, fiction and non-fiction, are those written by critical thinkers. H. L. Mencken is at the top of the list. He was an editor and a social critic whose objective analysis and evaluation of issues was expository magic. If there ever were a picture in the dictionary to illustrate the phrase “a way with words,” his would be the face we would see. As my husband puts it, his writings “comb my hair.”
I feel somewhat guilty liking the works of Mencken because I suspect his insight came with a price. I think that in order to write the amazing things he did, he had to live with cynicism. His marks on a page are witty, amusing, insightful, and entertaining; but I wonder what he had to experience in order to make those lovely marks. Whatever it was, I am very appreciative that Mencken’s thoughts and feelings found their way to the publication. I just hope that he enjoyed his life.
(The) world, I am convinced, could be materially improved, but even as it stands it is good enough to keep any reasonable man entertained for a lifetime. As for me, I roll out of my couch every morning with the most agreeable expectations.
H. L. Mencken ~ “What I Believe” (edited by S. T. Joshi)