Books: The Shocking Entertainer

MENCKEN: A STUDY OF HIS THOUGHT by Charles A. Fecher Knopf; 391 pages; $15

When H.L. Mencken was asked, "Why, if you find so much that is unworthy of reverence in the United States, do you continue to live here?" he countered, "Why do people visit zoos?"

The implication was clear: the speaker resided on top of the evolutionary scale; what better way to spend a life than laughing at the lower orders? Such was Mencken's amusement during the '20s and early '30s. It was a resentful, mocking epoch; Americans, disillusioned by World War...

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