I love this book! Not only is this the most accurate and hilarious description of boyhood in America outside of Twain, but Happy Days is also a lavish recreation of Baltimore in the 1880s. So much had changed by the '30s that Mencken was wistfully trying to document what had vanished since his boyhood, and much more of course has vanished since.
Plus, I simply adore Henry's prose--here he laments the fact that music was only a passionate hobby and never taken as a career:
Meditating on this, my lifelong libido that has never come to anything, I become aware of the eternal tragedy of man. He is born to long for things that are beyond him, as flight through the air is beyond a poor goldfish in a globe, and stardom in Hollywood must remain forever outside the experience, though not outside the dreams, of all save a few hundred of the girls in the ten-cent stores. Not many men of my unhappily meagre equipment have ever had a better chance than I to fling their egos into the face of this world. I have, in fact, made a living for many years by thrusting myself upon the attention of strangers, most of them reluctant. I have written and printed probably 10,000,000 words of English, and continue to this day to pour out more and more. It has wrung from others, some of them my superiors, probably a million words of notice, part of it pro but most of it con. In brief, my booth has been set up on a favorable pitch, and I have never lacked hearers for my bally-hoo. But all the same I shall die an inarticulate man, for my best ideas have beset me in a language I know only vaguely and speak only like a child...Why should a man so completely devoid of fitness for the tone-art yet have so powerful an impulse to practise it, and get so much pleasure out of it?...Every concert audience probably swarms with frustrated Beethovens and Wagners...The gods, in the main, are vicious, but now and then they show an unmistakable touch of humor.
Check out Rob Thorworth if you get the chance! He's currently in Baltimore and plays gigs locally and in Annapolis--I think Dig It Up is really impressive, and particularly so given the fact that Thorworth did all the production himself. I first heard him when Yahtzee lent me Life is Suffering; the songwriting on that album isn't up to the par of Dig It Up, but it's a helluva blues guitar album of the sort that I find instantly appealing. He's got a Thin Lizzy/70s Springsteeny vocal style, he plays a wicked blues-infused rock guitar, and even his piano ballads are bangin'. Good stuff.