Full text: The little review (9 (1923), 4)

37 
they are no better “art,” whatever he calls them, than half the 
stuff that pours into this office—nor any more so-called obscene 
than teething ring prattle compared to the things we have peace 
ably published. BUT we are not free to publish them nor were 
the writers free to write them, as far as America was concerned. 
Now that everything is free we will wait impatiently for Mr. 
Mencken to release this flood of genius in his new journal. Also 
—right here let us take up the herd of perfect “wood-sawing” 
artists loose somewhere between here and Chicago, known only 
to Mencken. “There is a group which says little and saws wood 
. . . they are sophisticated, disillusioned, free from cant . . . 
out of this dispersed, ill-defined group, I believe something will 
come.” Of course disillusioned, sophisticated, free from can’t 
is a pretty poor recipe for the true creative artist, but all sorts of 
things are done: cripples’ races, blind juggling, etc. There are 
no unknown geniuses, there is no artist anywhere unknown to 
other artists . . . this is one of the simplest axioms about the 
nature of the artist. If Mr. Mencken can pull artists out of the 
middle west he must use the same formula as the magician with 
his rabbit. But I am not doubting that they “saw-wood.” 
I have never been able to read Mencken except for his slang. 
I have found that amusing when he was “whamming” some 
second-rate bad thing (has he ever slain a first-rate bad thing?) 
but when he endorses I feel much the same delight in his crite 
rion as I feel when a salesperson assures me that “they are the 
smartest—I wear them myself.” I should like to know from 
some Mencken fan just how many first rank things he has fought 
for, how many truly bad he has fought? He has seemed to me 
to be oblivious to, or afraid of, first rank men and things. Here 
is a list of his “artists,” his white hopes who have slithered off: 
Willa Cather, Winston Churchill, Floyd Dell, Hergesheimer, 
Harry Fuller, Tarkington and Dreiser; it reads like a catch 
problem in a children’s arithmetic—2 muskmelons + 1 cabbage 
+ 3 artichokes + 1 potato = how many potatoes? 
Mencken was the perfect critic for the Smart Set audience 
. . . he has been fighting steadily for fifteen years people who 
had no fight in them, who would have believed all he had to say, 
at the end of fifteen years ... he himself implies that even Mr. 
Sumner believes him. He has done a great work: he has for
	        

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