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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Eye-opener
Whilst I am inclined to agree with some of the criticisms made by other reviewers, they are not major problems when set against the real and important achievements of this book. Yes, Jonathan Rose's 'The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes' is much more thoroughly researched and overall is more rewarding, but it's a bigger book and on a different subject...
Published on 16 Mar 2011 by J. Goddard

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars As scientists say: not even wrong
I reviewed John Carey's later book 'What Good are the Arts?' very negatively on Amazon a few years ago, and have had mostly negative comments for my pains. This book, which at least has a more intelligent premise (to examine attitudes of 20th century intellectuals towards 'the masses'), is even worse. I expect a kicking.

This is possibly the most asinine book...
Published 8 days ago by lexo1941


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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Eye-opener, 16 Mar 2011
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J. Goddard "Jim Goddard" (Shipley) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Intellectuals and the Masses: Pride and Prejudice Among the Literary Intelligentsia, 1880-1939 (Paperback)
Whilst I am inclined to agree with some of the criticisms made by other reviewers, they are not major problems when set against the real and important achievements of this book. Yes, Jonathan Rose's 'The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes' is much more thoroughly researched and overall is more rewarding, but it's a bigger book and on a different subject. Indeed, both books should be read together as they show different sides of the coin. They compliment each other well.

Carey's book certainly has its virtues. He isn't afraid to be blunt where it is justified and he has a gently cutting sense of humour when he has a mind. He has performed a signal service with this book, shedding light on the less savoury side of some of our much-vaunted intellectual predecessors. He's not the first to notice some of these things, but he puts his argument together well and the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Pretentious worshippers of the likes of Woolf and Eliot now have no excuse for not knowing that their heroes had moral feet of clay. It doesn't lessen their achievement as artists - I appreciate Eliot's work myself - but it should provide food for thought. Thank heavens, one might say, for 'the death of the author'. Personally, I'm rather glad that their dislike of educating the masses was sensibly ignored. If it hadn't been, I probably wouldn't be writing this.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, 1 Aug 2006
This review is from: The Intellectuals and the Masses: Pride and Prejudice Among the Literary Intelligentsia, 1880-1939 (Paperback)
A very well-written book full of fascinating details. A few criticisms: I would have preferred a chronological approach, to show how attitudes had changed over the period covered - this is only approximated by the ordering of material, ending with Hitler and covering postmodernism in the postscript; occasional lapses into subjective language are unworthy of the author; a failure to recognise that Joyce not only wrote about the 'common man' but was happy to associate with him, suggesting that his prolix style was not simply the result of a desire to be 'exclusive' (and to say this is true of others is a bit simplistic). The treatment of Orwell also seemed a bit unfair, and did Nietzsche really have less subtlety and imagination than DH Lawrence? I would agree with the central thesis - that to view 'the masses' as a uniformly subhuman group is an arrogant fallacy. But surely it's valid to be critical of and frustrated by the mass media that pander to the lowest common denominator, even if their audience are, individually, more intelligent than what they read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars As scientists say: not even wrong, 13 July 2014
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lexo1941 (Edinburgh, Scotland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Intellectuals and the Masses: Pride and Prejudice Among the Literary Intelligentsia, 1880-1939 (Paperback)
I reviewed John Carey's later book 'What Good are the Arts?' very negatively on Amazon a few years ago, and have had mostly negative comments for my pains. This book, which at least has a more intelligent premise (to examine attitudes of 20th century intellectuals towards 'the masses'), is even worse. I expect a kicking.

This is possibly the most asinine book by a tenured academic that I've read since Rudiger Imhof's 'The Modern Irish Novel', which had the great disadvantage of being written by someone for whom English is not a first language. Professor Carey's book is much better written than Professor Imhof's, but whereas Prof Imhof's took a few really stupid axioms (for example, that good modern fiction contains extended passages of description, and is not mostly composed of dialogue) and developed them with ironclad logic, Prof Carey's takes a few sensible axioms (for example, that modernist intellectuals were uneasy about the general public) and fails to develop them at all. Every page is infested with weasel wordage, unexamined assumptions, misrepresentations of the works being discussed and, in general, the kind of slack reasoning and absence of argumentative rigour that, if tried on by the average undergraduate, would have seen the young John Carey slinking out of college with a bare pass, if that.

Geoff Dyer has written an excellent review of the book, demonstrating the essentially corrupt and self-serving nature of Carey's thesis; for example, anyone Carey doesn't like is considered an 'intellectual' and therefore suspect, but anyone he does like, such as the poet and translator Edwin Muir, or the University of Chicago Press-published academic Helen McGill Hughes, is excused from the charge of 'intellectual' and considered just a reliable source.

One of the chief problems with the book is Carey's unwillingness to ask difficult questions, out of a desire to not alienate the reader. For example, he spends much of the first chapter quoting various intellectuals on the subject of how widespread free education is a bad thing, without any attempt to counter their arguments. It's apparently enough for Carey that Yeats poured scorn on the lower classes for not being as cultured as the higher classes; that, in itself, dismisses Yeats, as far as Carey is concerned. It so happens that I think Yeats' idealisation of the upper classes, insofar as he thought that the upper classes were more cultured, was mere snobbery, without any basis in fact. (I am one of the democratically educated middle-classes that Yeats would have despised.) But I want to see it argued, not just held up for ridicule. Likewise, when Eliot attacks education for all, I want to see a counter-argument; I don't consider it self-evident that Eliot was talking rubbish. After all, Eliot was a great writer. while John Carey isn't one, and so even if Eliot had some daft ideas, the reasons why he held them may have been very interesting.

Elsewhere, Carey pours uncritical praise on newspapers for providing the 'masses' (which he claims don't exist) with exactly the same type of aesthetic pleasure that intellectuals get from high culture, by means of featuring human interest stories. What Carey lacks, here, very glaringly, is any kind of critical sense regarding newspapers. Newspapers are media formed by decision-making and economic processes, not just some benign natural mirror in which uneducated people see themselves. Noam Chomsky, someone who has far more faith in and experience of the common sense of most people than John Carey, has repeatedly demonstrated the extent to which newspapers are, in general and by their nature, in the service of capitalism; their business is to sell their readers to their advertisers, and not to provide their readers with disinterested truth and 'human interest'.

As Dyer points out in his review, the hero of this book -- insofar as it's true hero isn't, in fact, John Carey himself -- is Arnold Bennett. Most of its readers will never have read Arnold Bennett. I made a special effort to, precisely because as someone who is gaining a college education only as an adult, I fall into the category of the kind of reader that I think John Carey wants us to believe he is writing for. I was reading Joyce as a teenager, and enjoying him; the older I get, the more I see in his work. I don't see much worth reading in Arnold Bennett. If the author of this book considers Arnold Bennett so great, all I can say is: so much for his critical faculties. It's disturbing enough when the book by Nietzsche that he quotes more often than any other is a book that Nietzsche himself never published. Carey's habit of quoting a writer at you and not bothering to point out that the writer had a much more complex and nuanced position than he represents is here at its most glaring.

The work of understanding the complex relationship between modernist artists and their public is hard, and this book, in its clumsy, evasive, fact-dodging way, just muddies the water. It will confirm the prejudices of people who suspect that difficult writing is always a waste of time, and never becomes easier with experience; it will not convince anyone who takes pleasure in reading anything that demands even the slightest effort on the part of the reader.

In short, John Carey could get a job with the Daily Mail.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The literary student's essential, 18 May 2014
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John Carey is an inspired teacher with a light touch; enlightening information seeps into your brain as he entertains you.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Page Turner, 18 May 2014
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This review is from: The Intellectuals and the Masses: Pride and Prejudice Among the Literary Intelligentsia, 1880-1939 (Paperback)
The book arrived well within the expected time, and was in good condition.
Going by the title, it does not sound like a 'page-turner' but it was; It was also very unsettling in that, ideologies thought to be acceptable only in certain countries, were in fact widespread.
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14 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars surprisingly funny, 24 Oct 2007
This review is from: The Intellectuals and the Masses: Pride and Prejudice Among the Literary Intelligentsia, 1880-1939 (Paperback)
This is probably politically incorrect but I found this book very funny in parts as it mirrors to some extent contemporary concerns about dumbing down. The shock & outrage (described by John Carey) felt by the intelligentsia at the thought of (for instance) the working class being encouraged to read is funny but also very chilling and echoes many of the ill informed leaders carried by many (so called) newspapers 100 years later. A thought provoking and unsettling read.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Helpful with my Thesis, 16 Jan 2013
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This review is from: The Intellectuals and the Masses: Pride and Prejudice Among the Literary Intelligentsia, 1880-1939 (Paperback)
Very interesting, well researched book, which has been very helpful whilst writing my PhD thesis. It takes an innovatory look at the intelligentsia at the beginning of the twentieth century and their attitude to the emerging mass culture.
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11 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A book that gives an answer to the way we are, 16 Jun 1999
By A Customer
John Carey has given us an insight to the reason why we are the way we are. Prejudice has always been a part of this country's social fabric and the middle classes are as guilty as the ignorant working class that is made to bear the blame. This is a book that is interesting to read as the writer carefully unravels the class myth and gives us an answer to many questions that we did not even know to ask. This was a liberating read for me and I would have easily given it the five crown if some of the people I gave it to had not found it hard going. But this is the situation in a mentally lazy society where we are made to feed off baby spoons through pop culture, that ensures that we remain unaware in a world that is increasingly looking like that magic phrase: The More You Look, The Less You See.
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22 of 32 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Has its moments - but lazy and unfair, 7 Aug 2006
By 
Ms. C. M. Elvey "Maryasha" (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Intellectuals and the Masses: Pride and Prejudice Among the Literary Intelligentsia, 1880-1939 (Paperback)
The first thing that I feel I should mention is that this work, in which John Carey is highly critical of the deliberate obfuscation of modernism, which Carey claims was a strategy adopted by the intellectuals to alienate the masses, makes frequent mention of T S Eliot, perhaps unsurprisingly, as this poet was renowned for his snobbery and anti-Semitism. Then one discovers that the first four chapters of this book were delivered as T S Eliot memorial lectures. This could either be seen as biting the hand that feeds you, or as the sort of incestuous in-joke for which the snobs that Carey so derides were notorious.

There are some humorous interpretations of the work of H G Wells and Wyndham Lewis, delivered in a witty style. There are also some valuable insights into the reason for the fin-de-siecle fear of the masses. However, some of this book is, in my opinion, simply inexcusable; it simplifies its case to the point of distortion, which is most noticeable with the mention it makes of Nietzsche's work. A notorious aphorism about women from "Beyond Good and Evil" is mysteriously and incorrectly attributed to Zarathustra, who never said it, but the dismissal of Nietzsche's thought is slapdash and flippant. The closing of the final chapter with pages about Hitler are ludicrous - to suggest that Hitler was in some way the equivalent of the aforementioned intellectuals because of his distaste for the masses and his adulation of high culture would be a weak enough thesis, even if it were true. It seems curious to me that Hitler was, as Carey maintains, such a lover of high culture, as his favourite work of music was "The Merry Widow" a tacky operetta by Lehar; Carey has him devouring Philosophy and Literature, whereas Ben Macintyre, author of "Forgotten Fatherland" shows that Hitler had not read any Nietzche at all, and was something of a cultural philistine. It certainly would be far more accurate to insist that Hitler loathed intellectuals than that he adulated them.
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10 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The 'Intellectual Elites' view YOU the masses with fear & suspicion., 27 Feb 2002
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This review is from: The Intellectuals and the Masses: Pride and Prejudice Among the Literary Intelligentsia, 1880-1939 (Paperback)
Carey is an excellent author (and speaker) he never gets over heated, pompous or partisan.
This book outlines how the intellectual elite of the 1930s viewed thier fellow man, mainly with contempt from what I can make out. Bernard Shaw, D H Lawrence the Bloomsbury set, Graham Green were all vexed by the growing population of those not of their class; they became enamoured of Nietzsche,and his view of the masses as also contemptuous and too numerous. The Masses are considered to be like a plague particularly with regard to urbanization (caused by the population explosion and the resulting loss of the green fields of England gobbled up by Suburbia. In fact to be labeled 'Suburban' or a 'Clerk' by the 'intelligensia' is the highest insult).
The upsurge in culture for the newly literate 'mass man' was also despised:-the penny dreadful and Daily Mail. Many of the 'intellectuals' in their writings loath the masses so much they favour extermination (Shaw and Lawrence for example)but don't go into details as to how this should be accomplished. To them the Masses were somehow not quite as human as they the intellectuals were and so made good candidates for a cul. The book forms a good backdrop to studying trends in the 1930s and the intellectual life that resulted from it. If anyone doubts that their literary heroes could think such things the Eugenics movement and its supporters is well documented in other sources.
Along similar lines to this book is 'Our Culture what's left of it' by Theodore Dalrymple which has chapters on D.H. Lawrence and Woolf which are excellent and argue in a similar direction to Carey. If one goes on to YouTube you can find footage of G.B. Shaw talking about 'humane killing' with gas ovens.
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