Marion Elizabeth Rodgers, editor   The Impossible H. L. Mencken: A Selection of His Best Newspaper Stories.
Foreword by Gore Vidal.
Doubleday, 707 pages, $27.50; $15 paper

Reading this collection of H. L. Mencken’s newspaper articles, most of them from the Twenties and Thirties, one begins to reflect on the persistence of human folly. Indeed, Mencken’s merry attack on the pieties and lunacies of his day inspires an oddly comforting thought: maybe things in America have not so much declined as remained depressingly the same.

Only the forms that public stupidity takes have changed: in Mencken’s time literature, for example, was judged in terms of its fealty to middle-class morality; now it is evaluated according to its political utility. But the sanctimoniousness, the righteous pressure to conform, the total lack of interest in art as such—these are with us still. We...

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