Theo Lippman, Jr. supplies a sizable sketch of Mencken to go with this selection of the great curmudgeon's nasty comments on newspaper publishers, editors and reporters. Tightly selected pieces, these show Mencken at his wittiest and most barbed (in later years the wit ran down and became rather mean). He worked on the Baltimore Sun for over 40 years, while producing his much revised The American Language, several volumes of reminiscence and satire, and studies of Shaw and Nietzsche. The pieces are from The Smart Set (which Mencken co-edited with George Jean Nathan), The American Mercury (which he edited), and various other magazines and newspapers. The roastings of Hearst and Britain's Northcliffe are balanced by sensitive depictions of Joseph Pulitzer and, especially, of the garden variety daily newspaper reporter. News gathering is a young man's game and Mencken's sad picture of a 40-50-year-old journalist, calcified but still hacking out stories ("correct in every idea and hollow as a jug"), connects. His hardest attack is on the "pecksniffs"--hypocritical publishers who in Mencken's day were bewailing infringements of the First Amendment while harassing the public with idiotic alarms about Bolshevism and bringing on the wholesale jailing and deportation of innocent men (remember Eugene Debs' prison term?). ". . . the great American journals continue to display, as usual, the morals and public spirit of so many Prohibition enforcement officers, Congressmen, or streetwalkers." Great fun all the way, and first-rate American prose crisp as a new dollar bill.