Author The Grouch

Mary Mann praises the cantankerous writing style of Max Beerbohm:

Max Beerbohm hates going for walks. He also hates when lady writers are more successful than he is. He wishes that people were more honestly unkind in their correspondence, and he doesn’t care too much for socializing. When reduced to a line, his essays — each a perfect parody of a different genre or author — sound annoyingly negative. They conjure up the greatest fear for a new essayist: how does one write about the self without being narcissistic and unlikable? The full essays, written in Beerbohm’s distinctive curmudgeonly voice, answer the question with a paradox: be willfully unlikeable, and people will like you.

Mann highlights some choice Beerbohm lines, such as, “Though I always liked to be invited anywhere, I very often preferred to stay at home.” Why his pejorative style was successful: 

Validation of human imperfections seems to be most important in times of great change, when everyone is feeling unsteady. This makes the specific imperfections of the curmudgeon especially valuable because the old grouch is always longing for the “good old days.” Beerbohm certainly did, once noting in his youth that his long-term goal was to go off and live away from modern things so he could “look forth and, in my remoteness, appreciate the distant pageant of the world.” In his lifetime he saw the advent of electric lights, home telephones, television, radio, airplanes, escalators, vacuum cleaners… even such ageless-seeming items as the teabag and the cross-word puzzle. He took some things more in stride then others — he broadcast on BBC radio during World War II and writer Rebecca West gushed that he sounded like “the last civilized man on earth” — but was almost impossible to reach on the telephone because, as writer S.N. Behrman tactfully put it in The New Yorker, “he tolerated the instrument, but he didn’t coddle it.”