H.L. Mencken shakes the South out of its cultural lethargy

Read H.L. Mencken’s “Sahara of the Bozart,” a devastating attack on the South’s lack of culture

A reader recently shared H.L. Mencken’s “The Sahara of the Bozart” with me. It had been years since I’d read it. So I re-read it, and I’m glad I did. Mencken’s essay on the early 20th century South’s lack of culture is so damning, humorous and just plain nasty that it made me think that if H.L. Mencken was alive today he would have been some unholy combination of Christopher Hitchens and Lewis Black from The Daily Show. Here’s one little snippet from “The Sahara of the Bozart.”

“There are single acres in Europe that house more first-rate men than all the states south of the Potomac; there are probably single square miles in America. If the whole of the late Confederacy were to be engulfed by a tidal wave tomorrow, the effect upon the civilized minority of men in the world would be but little greater than that of a flood on the Yang-tse-kiang.”

Mencken later wrote that he believes this essay helped revive culture in the south. No one ever accused him of being humble.

Read the whole thing here.

Photo by Celso Flores

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Author: Joe Donatelli

Joe Donatelli is a writer in Los Angeles. He publishes The Humor Columnist.