H.L. Mencken, on writers and writing

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Over the holidays I stumbled on a 1948 interview with H.L. Mencken (in eight parts, on YouTube; see part one below, and follow the rest of the series through). For writers, reading Mencken is good, and good for us.

Listening to him is almost as good.

Here are a few snippets I snatched, about matters near and dear to communicators’ hearts.

Complemented by his interviewer about how much mail his Baltimore Sun column generated, Mencken said:

“The volume of mail that comes into a magazine or a newspaper or a radio station is no index of anything, except that you happen to attract a lot of idiots. Because most people who write letters to newspapers are fools. Intelligent people seldom do it. They do it sometimes, but not often.”

Mencken wonders aloud how modern reporters are spending their copious free time. For one thing, the interviewer posits, they play golf. Mencken retorts:

“The idea of a newspaper reporter with any self-respect playing golf is to me almost inconceivable. I hear that even printers now play golf. God almighty, that’s dreadful to think about. I remember printers in my time—I knew a great many intimately—… and I was very fond of them and they were fine fellows, but golf-playing—it would seem as incredible as to hear of a printer going to a dance. Printers spent their leisure, mainly, in saloons.”

Mencken, on editors:

“I’m thoroughly convinced that editors don’t help authors. Either a man is good, or he’s bad. And if he’s good, he’ll bust through in one way or another. If he’s bad, no conceivable help will help him.”

Go help yourself to this Mencken feast.

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