The unmistakable iconoclasm of Mencken resounds again in this memoir of his early days in the literary trade. The original 1,000-page manuscript, scaled in a vault for 35 years after Mencken's death, has been trimmed 60 percent by Pulitzer-winning book-critic Yardley (Our Kind of People, 1989, etc.). Many of the deleted passages evidently dwelled on the trivial--and even in the finished product only an accountant could love Mencken's itemizations of his financial affairs. Admirers might wish that Yardley had also used the blue pencil on the casually flagrant stereotypes that litter this memoir much as they did The Diary of H. L. Mencken (1989), particularly those brief but pungent comments like the one about publisher Philip Goodman, who remained Mencken's friend "until the shattering impact of Hitler made him turn Jewish on me." The autobiography lacks some of the raffish nostalgia of Mencken's Days trilogy, an absence reflecting bitterness over America's second war with his beloved Germany, but it still offers an invaluable record of Mencken's impact on American letters until the early 1920's (a 1948 stroke prevented him from chronicling his stewardship of the American Mercury and his later journalism). Mencken is justifiably proud of how he and George Jean Nathan turned the cash-starved Smart Set into a forum for America's brightest newcomers. He cheerfully recalls the feuds and quirks (often alcohol-induced) of now-obscure neophytes, as well as of the more famous, including Scott Fitzgerald, Sinclair Lewis, Willa Cather, Ezra Pound, and Aldous Huxley. Mencken's description of his stormy friendship with Theodore Dreiser is masterful, as admiring of the latter's clumsy genius as it is exasperated with his oafishness ("Whenever an obvious fact competed for his attention with a sonorous piece of nonsense, he went for the nonsense"). Often comically brilliant in detailing Mencken's "sharp and more or less truculent dissent from the mores of my country"--and always brutally frank about others' foibles and his own prejudices.