Lee Smith and Hal Crowther
Award-winning authors Lee Smith and Hal Crowther will be at Scuppernong with their newest books on November 22, at 3pm.
Hal Crowther was a columnist and film and drama critic for the Buffalo News, a staff writer for Time and media critic for Newsweek. His new book, An Infuriating America: The Incendiary Arts of H. L. Mencken, (published October 15, 2014) argues that no writer can afford to ignore Mencken's craftmanship or success, or fail to be fascinated by his strange mind and the world that produced it.
Lee Smith has published 13 novels and four collectoins of short stories, and is a recipient of the Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the North Carolina Award for Literture, and a Southern Book Critics Circle Award. Her newest novel, Guests on Earth, follows an orphan at the Highland Mental Hospital in Ashville, N.C. in the 1930s.
As American journalism shape-shifts into multimedia pandemonium and seems to diminish rapidly in influence and integrity, the controversial career of H. L. Mencken, the most powerful individual journalist of the twentieth century, is a critical text for anyone concerned with the balance of power between the free press, the government, and the corporate plutocracy. Mencken, the belligerent newspaperman from Baltimore, was not only the most outspoken pundit of his day but also, by far, the most widely read, and according to many critics the most gifted American writer ever nurtured in a newsroom--a vanished world of typewriter banks and copy desks that electronic advances have precipitously erased.
Nearly 60 years after his death, Mencken's memory and monumental verbal legacy rest largely in the hands of literary scholars and historians, to whom he will always be a curious figure, unchecked and alien and not a little distasteful. No faculty would have voted him tenure. Hal Crowther, who followed in many of Mencken's footsteps as a reporter, magazine editor, literary critic, and political columnist, focuses on Mencken the creator, the observer who turned his impressions and prejudices into an inimitable group portrait of America, painted in prose that charms and glowers and endures. Crowther, himself a working polemicist who was awarded the "Baltimore Sun"'s Mencken prize for truculent commentary, examines the origin of Mencken's thunderbolts--where and how they were manufactured, rather than where and on whom they landed.
Mencken was such an outrageous original that contemporary writers have made him a political shuttlecock, defaming or defending him according to modern conventions he never encountered. Crowther argues that loving or hating him, admiring or despising him are scarcely relevant. Mencken can inspire and he can appall. The point is that he mattered, at one time enormously, and had a lasting effect on the national conversation. No writer can afford to ignore his craftsmanship or success, or fail to be fascinated by his strange mind and the world that produced it. This book is a tribute--though by no means a loving one--to a giant from one of his bastard sons.
This is a haunting story about the treatment of mental illness in the early 1900s. Focusing on Highland Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina, where Zelda Fitzgerald died in the fire that destroyed the hospital in 1948, the story is told through the voice of Evalina Toussaint who was sent to the hospital as a young child. Evalina's narrative is an example of the brutal early treatment of mental illness, when some patients became subjects for medical experiments. Any fan of the Fitzgeralds, the medical profession, or the history of medicine in the early 1900s will enjoy this book. -- Jackie Willey, Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC