"Our public and private life still embrace improvement... Mencken was brave enough to turn his face from all that, with a mixture of ironic dismay and scorn...to grasp that the purpose of literature is not to expose, instruct, explicate ideas, or advance causes; to apprehend that Lardner’s achievement was 'to take familiar personages, usually regarded with tolerant smiles, and to show the viciousness under their superficial imbecility'; and to embrace a view of public affairs without uplift, without virtue, without purpose... (Mencken) knew all efforts at betterment are ultimately shabby, inane, narcissistic, or brutal — and that knowledge renders his satiric force nearly tragic."