by Max Brantley
On this day in 1931, the Arkansas state legislature passed a motion to pray for the soul of H. L. Mencken. One of Mencken's Laws was "Nature abhors a moron," and one of his favorite pastimes was to attack the South for being especially ruled by the "booboisie"; upon finding itself elevated to "the apex of moronia," Arkansas had apparently had enough. Mencken had drawn international attention with his mocking reports on the Scopes Evolution Trial in 1925, but he had long-attacked the South for its devolution from "a civilization of manifold excellences" to a Home Sweet Home for "Ku Kluxery," "Bible Belt barbarism," "poor white trash." His single most famous and influential assault was the 1920 essay, "The Sahara of the Bozart" (i.e. beaux art). To his earlier claim that the South was "culturally, about as dead as the Yucatan" Mencken added so much sand that it was now "almost as sterile, artistically, intellectually, culturally, as the Sahara Desert"
There's more, including how Mencken and Arkansas inspired Anita Loos to make the heroine of "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" a Little Rock native. Loos once commented:
The name of my heroine Lorelei Lee was invented although her birthplace was not and Mencken himself had a hand in that. For I wanted Lorelei to be symbol of our nation's lowest possible mentality and remembered Mencken's essay on American culture in which he branded the state of Arkansas as "the Sahara of the Bozarts." I therefore chose Little Rock for Lorelei's early years; Little Rock, which even today lives up to Mencken's choice as a nadir in shortsighted human stupidity.
Only when the legislature is in session.