Mencken Speaks
May 24, 2009 4:02 PM   Subscribe

Donald H. Kirkey, Jr., The Baltimore Sun theater critic interviews H. L. Mencken, part 1 of 8.

Part 2,Part 3 , Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8.

This recording was made a few months before Mencken's stroke in 1948 that ended his public life.
posted by readery (4 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Hey, I have that LP! Didn't know it was so rare. The interview is from 1948, which isn't clear from the Youtube links. Here's a brief Google Books mention.

It's filled with classic Mencken, delivered with savage certainty - like at 2:10 in part V where he says "most people who write letters to newspapers are fools; intelligent people seldom do it." Or at 4:10 in the same clip where he wonders what the "modern young newspaper man" does for leisure and goes on a bit later to snort, "The idea of a newspaper reporter with any self-respect playing golf seems to me almost inconceivable." It's alternately brilliant and infuriating stuff - again, classic Mencken.

Be sure to check after 2:30 in part VIII, where Mencken responds savagely to the question, "What do you think of television?" - which is specifically about newspapers owning radio and TV stations, but he also goes after the way TV pulls good newspaper people away from what's important. Great stuff.

Btw, the guy he's talking to is Kirkley, not Kirkey.
posted by mediareport at 4:29 PM on May 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

H. L. Mencken made a career out of being contrariwise. He liked to think himself anti-American.. against the New Deal, against US entry into WWII, against Roosevelt in general. Thought Germany was great (in the 1920s and 30s). Ayn Rand found him a hero, a model of her philosophy (hilarious given how inconsistent his opinions were). This radio interview is interesting when one considers it is Talk Radio that became the main hangout for contrarians and satirical culture critics (ie. Limbaugh, Art Bell, Howard Stern etc.). In his last days he had one foot in the new age, a transitional piece
posted by stbalbach at 6:53 PM on May 24, 2009

I don't think of Mencken as being inconsistent, at all. I'm wondering what makes you think this...
posted by sfts2 at 7:34 PM on May 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

sfts2 -- He was inconsistent with today's rigid political divisions, seeming to have no interest in ideological purity, or much concern whether his opinions jibed with any particular label. This may have been as remarkable in his own day, as it would have been in ours. You could, I suppose, sift through his writings and pick out things that would place him in the left, right or libertarian camp, but it's much more fun to simply read him and enjoy him and laugh out loud. I mean, his two volumes of biography alone should have earned him a place in the Library of America. He was NOT (as he comes across a little in these interviews) the Andy Rooney of his time, but an energetic writer, with many different interests, a man with a serious interest in literature and music, and a one-of-a-kind character.
posted by Faze at 7:21 PM on May 25, 2009

« Older Hard Labor of Love   |   Come with this plate of beans if you want to live Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments