THE H.L. Mencken Writing Award this year went to Hal Crowther, a former establishment-press type (Time, Newsweek, the Buffalo News), who now polemicizes for an alternative press weekly, The Independent, in North Carolina.
He baits the political right with the same zest that Henry Mencken once mocked Methodists. Some examples:
* On Ronald Reagan --
"The Reagan Revolution was a media revolution in every sense -- the coming-of-age of the image industry on its final frontier, power politics. Reagan's was the first all-video presidency, as Kuwait was the first all-video war. It was the first successful political movement based on neither a program nor a personality but on a marketing concept. . . Americans seemed to believe in these mediocre performers [Ron and Nancy] and their patriotic pageant out of a terrible need to believe, a deeper need than anyone had anticipated."
* On the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings --
"Imagine the United States as a big snake with an urgent purpose, like crossing a hot four-lane in August. What are the past year's and the past week's headlines but the hopeless thrashing of that old snake after a loaded gravel truck divided him squarely? Road kill is a delicacy compared with what we have just consumed, with what we as a nation of spectators seemed to devour compulsively as the cameras served it to us from the Caucus Room of the U.S. Senate."
* On talk show right-winger Rush Limbaugh --
"Here was this loud guy, with a plaintive note in his voice that almost made you want to help him, suffering through the usual tortures of talk-radio personalities with too much time to fill. . . I tuned in to hear the devil dancing and I found a stammering, under-rehearsed after-dinner speaker with one eye on the clock. . . Egocentric, ethnocentric and phallocentric, this decadent yahoo 'conservatism' is the defiant bellow of a certain kind of cornered white male who imagines that his grandfather ruled the earth before things began to go wrong."
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OUR FRIEND the co-dependent has come up with an idea that might finance a comfortable retirement -- if she can get the book on the market before the self-help movement collapses of its own wordy weight.
The brainstorm struck after a series of encounters with children of all ages: grown-ups reconsidering their childhood and deeming their parents grossly deficient in any or all categories; adolescents railing about restrictions or nagging; even infants protesting parental failings in the lustily insistent way that that only infants can muster.
The idea? A support group for all the survivors of imperfect parents, to be called -- what else? -- Adult Children of Parents.