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Spoilt Rotten: The Toxic Cult of Sentimentality [Hardcover]

Theodore Dalrymple
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)

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Book Description

19 Aug 2010
In this perceptive and witty book, Theodore Dalrymple unmasks the hidden sentimentality that is suffocating public life. Under the multiple guises of raising children well, caring for the underprivileged, assisting the less able and doing good generally, we are achieving quite the opposite for the single purpose of feeling good about ourselves. Dalrymple takes the reader on both an entertaining and at times shocking journey through social, political, popular and literary issues as diverse as child tantrums, aggression, educational reform, honour killings, sexual abuse, Che Guevara, Eric Segal, Romeo and Juliet, the McCanns, public emotions and the role of suffering, and shows the perverse results when we abandon logic in favour of the cult of feeling. Drawing on his long experience of working with thousands of criminals and the mentally disturbed, Dalrymple proves that we can only hope to make a difference... if we start with thinking well.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 260 pages
  • Publisher: Gibson Square Books Ltd (19 Aug 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1906142610
  • ISBN-13: 978-1906142612
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 13.8 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 390,773 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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- 'Not since Christopher Hitchen s assault on Mother Theresa have so many sacred cows been slaughtered in such a slim volume.' Jonathan Sumption, Spectator - 'One of our most celebrated essayists.' Toby Young, Mail on Sunday - '[A] cultural highlight.' Observer - 'Surgical demolition.' Guardian - 'Excellent... We have created an unprecedentedly egocentric generation, where giving in to your emotions is a human right.' Neil Hamilton Sunday Express - 'Witty, always punchy and sometimes rapier-like.' Tom Adair, Scotsman - 'Excellent.' Toby Young, telegraph.co.uk - 'This is what makes sentimentality so much worse.' Noel Malcolm page review, Sunday Telegraph - 'Entertaining... really good stories.' Nigel Burke, Express - 'Inimitable' Theodore Dalrymple. Specator.co.uk - Telegraph Bookshop No 1 Bestseller - Amazon Top 5 Modern Culture Bestseller --1 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


'Excellent' Toby Young, Daily Telegraph

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
61 of 66 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Spoily Rotten 15 Aug 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is Dalrymple's criticism of the effects of overt public displays of emotion.It shows how sentimentality has become a substitute for thinking & also coercive which has a damaging impact on society. How you feel about an issue being more important that being erudite about it. While Dalrymple does not expect us to behave as stoics, he notes how public sentimentality can become coercive i.e Princess Diana's death and how this coercion can result in threats of violence if people do not conform. He notes how fortitude, once regarded as a virtue now is a sign of callousness. Dalrymple goes through different events in the book e.g Madeline McCann disapearance & disects the media & the publics reaction to these events. Dalrymple regards a lot of these displays of emotion as more for the selfish benefit of the person who displays them - being emotional showing that you are a caring/ sharing person. He believes that sentimentality is the midwife to violence. Lack of control over our emotions can be used as an excuse for violence. This book is well worth a read & causes you to be skeptical if you are not already of sentimentality in public.Its also a decent price for a good book
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72 of 80 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dreadful Cover, Insightful Content 12 July 2010
The marketing director who is responsible for the misbegotten title and ghastly cover picture of this book has much to answer for. Both title and cover have nothing to do with the book's content. The lettering of the title is a typographer's nightmare, each letter individually printed on a card and "pasted" like a ransom note. There were many copyediting errors in the printing that I received in June, though these may (or may not) have been since corrected - the book was withdrawn and later reposted on Amazon with a July pub date. That said, I have found much insight in Dalrymple's essays on the excess sentimentality in British culture - and I can attest in American as well. He uses the word sentimentality when I think of the phenomenon as a public display of one's compassion. He nails it when he identifies the sentimentality as outward posturing. (In my experience, while everyone must give lip service to sentimental righthink, this is usually a figleaf strictly for public consumption.) Dalrymple's examples are always interesting, from victimology to aid to Africa. In the U.S. the current word is "caring", with the implicit charge that if you do not endorse "caring" social policies, you are outside the moral pale, exiled from the warm golden sphere of kind, right-thinking people. Argument by intimidation. This book has given me much to think about. There is a great moral message in Dalrymple. He is well read, and he has a rare gift for clear analysis. Essentially his talent is for taking what were cardinal virtues in an earlier century that have been abandoned for their opposite, and stripping away the accretion of falsehood and cant to reveal a clear rationale for returning to the earlier ethos.
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50 of 56 people found the following review helpful
This is an excellent book on a very important subject. Most people are unaware of the all-pervasive nature of sentimentality in the modern world -- because it is so all-pervasive. It is also insidious and dangerous and allied to many kinds of evil, as Dalrymple demonstrates.

It is difficult to define sentimentality. One could say it is insistence that one's feelings must be beautiful, and that this matters above all else. So, compassion for a large number of people one knows nothing about -- 'the poor' , say-- is very beautiful, and gives one a warm glow of self-satisfaction. The fact that these feelings have no use for 'the poor', and are indeed only of use for making me feel good about myself, is irrelevant to the sentimentalist. It is not the truth of his thoughts that matter, but the beauty of his feelings. Sentimentalists tend to be utterly ruthless and unscrupulous. They are as dishonest and manipulative with others as they are with their own all-important feelings.

That is only a starting point, of course. There is so much to say on the subject.

One very interesting question, which I wish Dalrymple had said more about, is the historical context. Is there much more sentimentality than there was, say, in Shakespeare's time (an author entirely untinged with sentimentality) and if so why? One reason is the decline in Christianity. Dalrymple is not a believer but the doctrine of Original Sin certainly kept one is a state of healthy distrust of one's feelings, although of course that could turn into unhealthy self-flagellation. Second, the rise of the mass media, and films and pop videos which convey ultra-simple emotional instant gratificaton. Third, the rise of overall wealth and comfort certainly has something to do with it.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought Provoking 23 April 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
In a society that supposedly prides itself on egalitarian and democratic principles, it is a pity that Mr Dalrymple's views do not get much of an airing. Theodore Dalrymple (aka Anthony Daniels) is a retired psychiatrist. Much of his writing appears to be based on anecdotes and personal experience, rather than empirical evidence. That said, a psychiatrist is probably in a better position than most to comment on the lives of the 'underclass' and some of his arguments are indeed compelling. Mr Dalyrmple works from the premise that many of the ills plaguing Western, and particularly British, society are due to the fact that some people simply do not know how to live and inhabit a brutal and nihilistic world outwith that which most of us would consider normal. Mr Dalrymple's proposition is that this situation undermines the life of all. According to the author, this set of circumstances has largely come about as a result of the medicalisation of social problems and a tendency on the part of the left to create a culture where rights without responsibilities are the norm. Although I have left-leaning tendencies, it is hard to dispute that welfare reform has not had the desired effect. Rafts of legislation has failed to address the problem of the growing army of people who simply abdicate any responsibility for their own lives or that of their children. He uses an example of the parents of a troubled child telling him they had given the child everything (ipods, computers etc), missing the point that the child might have been better served had they provided appropriate and nurturing parenting rather than gadgets.

Mr Dalrymple explores these issues in some detail.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Don't want to write review this is why l will ...
Don't want to write review this is why l will not send off information about star ratings because you demand a review on every item and you want numerous words. Read more
Published 27 days ago by ann macfarlane
4.0 out of 5 stars The truths we all know - except the fools who control us
A bit OTT in places, maybe, but it homes in on many if the idiocies that vitiate modern British life. Read more
Published 1 month ago by R. A. Williams
2.0 out of 5 stars Wailing about wailing
A number of passages of lucidity and insight if not originality; otherwise a devastating, occasionally hilarious & often grotesque self-parody.
Published 1 month ago by Tritz
1.0 out of 5 stars Opinion (badly) dressed as fact
Poorly evidenced writing that's nothing more than angry opinion - there are very few things that rile me as much as a book presenting as fact assertions that I can refute without... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Miss N. A. Golding
2.0 out of 5 stars What's the world coming to?
The book started off quite well, with quite good comment on education, and I had high expectations. However, the author went on to express his gripes about all sorts of issues that... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Pelagius
1.0 out of 5 stars Generalist, conservative, acerbic grouching
17% of the way through and have to release my own rant. About to have a baby, and like the author somewhat prone to over-criticism of others, I am all too aware of the current cult... Read more
Published 4 months ago by ms deborah cramer
5.0 out of 5 stars Dalrymple is one of Britain's brilliantly accomplished essayists of...
Dalrymple is a brilliant antidote to the cult of self indulgence and self delusion which now poisons all objective discourse on the pervasive social evils of our time. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Peter
4.0 out of 5 stars Missed some obvious targets
I enjoyed reading this rant, largely because I agreed with most of it. I was left, however, with the impression that he got bored with the subject and wanted to move on to... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Theo
4.0 out of 5 stars Good structure, good thesis, and application.
I admit that in the beginning I was reading this book as kind of soft reading to complement my more technical readings so I was not planning on being pulled in by it. Read more
Published 6 months ago by DIOMIDES MAVROYIANNIS
1.0 out of 5 stars M.A. Chaudry
I agreed with some of the arguments (or rants) made by the doctor but after reading the other reviews I'm relieved to see that I'm not the only one that was baffled by his writing... Read more
Published 7 months ago by M.A.Chaudry
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