on h.l.mencken’s death

joan acocella (on terry teachout’s book) on h.l.mencken (this excerpt taken from p134 of the dec 9 issue of the new yorker):

“Moderation in all things,” he once wrote in his notebook. “Not too much life. It often lasts too long.” It did for him. One day, while he was talking to his secretary, Mrs. Lohrfinck–he was now sixty-eight–his speech turned to babble, and he was rushed to Johns Hopkins. “Mr. Mencken has suffered a stroke,” the doctor said the next day, “and I am sorry to say that he is recovering.” The stroke left him unable to read or write. Nevertheless, he was back at his desk in short order and, with Mrs. Lohrfinck’s help, published two more books. A few years later, he was again hauled off to the hospital, this time with a massive heart attack. The doctors told the Associated Press that there was no chance of his recovering. Everyone felt sad for the old geezer; the tributes rolled off the presses. Soon, he was drinking beer on the ward and sending people out for cigars. Again h ewent back to work, editing his notebook entries into a new volume. (It was a best-seller.) Finally–one imagines a huge hammer coming down out of the sky–he died in his sleep in 1956, at the age of seventy-five.


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