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Politics & Current Affairs

The Folly of Betterment

“For all his swashbuckling assaults on what he called the ‘booboisie’, Mencken was the first important writer to probe and relish middle-class American life.”

“Our public and private life still embrace improvement… Mencken was brave enough to turn his face from all that, with a mixture of ironic dismay and scorn…to grasp that the purpose of literature is not to expose, instruct, explicate ideas, or advance causes; to apprehend that Lardner’s achievement was ‘to take familiar personages, usually regarded with tolerant smiles, and to show the viciousness under their superficial imbecility’; and to embrace a view of public affairs without uplift, without virtue, without purpose… (Mencken) knew all efforts at betterment are ultimately shabby, inane, narcissistic, or brutal — and that knowledge renders his satiric force nearly tragic.”


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