H. L. Mencken described his first reading of Huckleberry Finn as “probably the most stupendous event of my whole life”
Richard Wright described discovering H. L. Mencken this way:
“I was jarred and shocked by the style, the clear, clean, sweeping sentences. Why did he write like that? And how did one write like that? I pictured the man as a raging demon, slashing with his pen, consumed with hate…yes this man was fighting, fighting with words. He was using words as a weapon, using them as one would use a club…I read on and what amazed me was not what he said, but how on earth anybody had the courage to say it.”
For me, reading Mencken for the first time was a “stupendous event,” particularly his first Chrestomathy, and Wright’s Black Boy is the most powerful account of American racism I’ve ever encountered. It hit me like a fist.