Terry Teachout, author of the New York Times Notable Book The Skeptic: A Life of H.L. Mencken, will read for Washington University’s 2003-04 Center for the Humanities’ Writers Series Oct. 13-14.
Teachout will host two events while on campus. At 8 p.m. Monday, Oct. 13, he will read from his work in the School of Law’s Anheuser-Busch Hall, Room 204. At 4 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 14, he will lead a seminar and audience discussion on the craft of writing in McMillan Café, Room 115, McMillan Hall.
Both events are free and open to the public and are sponsored by The Center for the Humanities in Arts & Sciences (formerly the International Writers Center in Arts & Sciences). Copies of Teachout’s works will be available for purchase and a book-signing and reception will follow each program. Anheuser-Busch Hall is located on Olympian Way, just north of Forsyth Boulevard. McMillan Hall is located a short walk east of Anheuser-Busch Hall. For more information call (314) 935-5576.
The Skeptic: A Life of H.L. Mencken (2002) is the first full-length biography of the great and controversial journalist H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) to appear in more than 30 years. Mencken was a powerful voice in American politics and culture during the first half of the 20th century, writing for the Sun and Evening Sun newspapers in his native Baltimore as well as for The New Yorker and his own The Smart Set and The American Mercury magazines. In 1925, he played a key role in the infamous Scopes Trial in Dayton, Tenn. — the trial that challenged the teaching of evolution in public schools — working with defense attorney Clarence Darrow to put prosecutor William Jennings Bryan on the witness stand.
In writing The Skeptic, Teachout relied chiefly on Mencken’s private, autobiographical papers, which had been sealed upon the journalist’s death. Teachout began working with the material in 1992, during his tenure as arts columnist for the New York Daily News, when he discovered and later edited the manuscript for A Second Mencken Chrestomathy (1995), a collection of essays, reviews and reportorial pieces selected and annotated by Mencken but never published.
“I am like Mencken,” Teachout explained, “a working journalist, and have spent most of my adult life writing for and editing American magazines and newspapers. It stands to reason that the openings of Mencken’s sealed memoirs of his professional life would have played a part in my decision to undertake a new biography of so celebrated an author and editor.”
The Skeptic has met with widespread critical acclaim. Author Ken Auletta noted that, “Mr. Mencken has finally met a worthy biographer,” while Sam Tenenhaus raved, “What a feast of a book! Terry Teachout has brought H.L. Mencken vibrantly to life, in all his rich, cosmic irascibility… The Skeptic is irresistible — just like Mencken himself.” And Paul Johnson declared, “Terry Teachout’s life of Mencken is an important book … His life is worth recounting and is here expertly and fairly summarized.”
Teachout previously authored City Limits: Memories of a Small Town Boy (1991) and edited Ghosts on the Roof: Selected Journalism of Whittaker Chambers 1931-1959 (1989) and Beyond the Boom: New Voices on American Life, Culture, and Politics (1990). His latest collection, A Terry Teachout Reader, will be published by Yale University Press next spring.
Teachout began his career as a music critic for the Kansas City Star and served as editor of Harper’s Magazine before joining The New York Daily News as editorial writer, classical music critic and dance critic. He is music critic for Commentary, drama critic for The Wall Street Journal and a contributor to The Washington Post, for which he writes the column “Second City” about the arts in New York City, where he resides.