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61 of 66 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Spoily Rotten
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...
Published on 15 Aug 2010 by David Finn

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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
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 of self-congratulation that surrounds childrearing. I hoped to find in this text a thoughtful critique that would help me outline where sentimentality stands apart from caring about and acting...
Published 6 months ago by ms deborah cramer


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61 of 66 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Spoily Rotten, 15 Aug 2010
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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
By 
Eileen Pollock (New York, NY) - See all my reviews
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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
5.0 out of 5 stars tough on sentimentality, tough on the causes of sentimentality, 18 Aug 2010
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.

Certainly, in my travels to third world countries, I did not spot huge levels of sentimentality amongst poor and religious people.

Dalrymple's savage treatment of modern Britain will make many people -- myself included -- ashamed to belong to such a degraded country. Let us only hope the tendency towards emotional honesty and integrity that he represents regains some ground.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Generalist, conservative, acerbic grouching, 25 Mar 2014
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This review is from: Spoilt Rotten: The Toxic Cult of Sentimentality (Kindle Edition)
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 of self-congratulation that surrounds childrearing. I hoped to find in this text a thoughtful critique that would help me outline where sentimentality stands apart from caring about and acting on a mindful, enjoyable, inclusive model for family life.

Instead I find the reading ridiculous in its conservatism, lack of balance and frank bitchiness, increasingly pushing me to defend whatever vagaries the author so patently despises under this oddly chosen blanket of "sentimentality". I agree with Dalrymple that (western?) humankind's emphasis on happiness is the start and end of our big fat suffering. This is a complex matter and begs the question as to what alternatives really exist in the consciousness of humans and other species. Fair enough, Dalrymple isn't here to talk about that. But s/he gets me incensed immediately by overestimating the human intellect with the sole purpose of denigrating it. "Sentimentality" becomes a contemptful and miserably inadequate method of delivering a rant, to people who like reading rants, about our various social failures and enormous philosophical crises. How about targeting the real mindset many people are born with and into - our inability to find or ask about purpose in life? Our general indifference to others? Loss of community? It is a grumpy lie that sentimentality and indulgence and the belief in love underpins these things.

I don't think Dalrymple really believes that illiteracy and violence is rooted solely in our perceived right to happiness - I think he struggled for a marketable wrapper and arrived wrong-footedly at sentimentalism. Where I think he goes wildly wrong is to link whatever this moral failure is to an erosion of reason and intellect, where plenty of philosophers continue argue against reason as an organising principle of life. This is where I believe he overestimates what people are capable of and reduces our failings to matters of rational choice in a blameful and entirely non-productive way. This guy thinks in black and white and he's pretty outrageous with it - arguing that the great poets are not great thinkers, that education is either romantic or didactic, that romanticism is sentimentalism.

Other irksome qualities of the text so far:
Cherry picked statistics
Chanting, oppressive tone
Unexplained comparisons with other countries
Attacks on individuals, such as educationists

I will continue reading as perhaps it is my own one-dimensional views that are shaping the text up for me like this. So far, I think Dalrymple should have taken a leaf out of his own order-obsessed manual for life and written with a more careful handle on his personal prejudices.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought Provoking, 23 April 2012
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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. He also casts a glance at aspects of our culture that I find distasteful; the apparently endless appetite for misery memoirs, the mawkish collective grieving undertaken by people who could in no way be affected by the events in question, and explores the implications of a (cheap in my opinion) tendency for some people to feel they are a better person if they are seen to empathise with the distress of others. The crucial word here is seen, not the fact that people may empathise, but that they want to be seen to be doing it. Of course, it is very easy to wallow in other people's misery. You don't really have to do anything. In my opinion, there is something quite sick about this kind of behaviour. Mr Dalrymple clearly thinks so too and argues for a return to the more stoic attitude of previous generations.

I do not agree with everything Mr Dalyrymple says in this book (or elsewhere) but he is clearly an erudite and thoughtful man who has much to contribute to the social reform debate. Many of this author's writings could be considered right leaning. Although his work may be controversial, and even offensive, to the liberal left, it is certainly not the rantings of some right wing crank. In a society that is so tolerant of so many ills, I cannot understand why Mr Dalrymple appears to be something of a pariah for merely putting forward his rationally argued views. I found this book refreshingly frank.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Two cheers for Dr Dalrymple, 16 Sep 2013
By 
D. Lye "David Lye" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Spoilt Rotten: The Toxic Cult of Sentimentality (Kindle Edition)
As ever, Theodore Dalrymple swims energetically against the tide of ignorance, instant celebrity and sentimentality in modern life. His dissection of the media reporting of the McCanns and the Peter Falconio case is particularly trenchant. As ever, he takes his argument a bit further than it can sustainably go. But he's a welcome and never dull dissenting voice.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Read, 6 July 2010
By 
Caroline Young "book fiend" (|Birmingham) - See all my reviews
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I had heard of but never yet read a book by this writer. This book is a good, sharp read, very amusing and almost like Orwell in how the writer takes something that seems obviously correct and then shows you how very wrong it is (a liberal, like me, will have to agree through gritted teeth). His experiences with people from inner-city Birmingham (and its prison) are really what makes it genuinely fascinating. The description, for example, of a reading inmate saying about a word 'I don't know that one' as if it is an exotic creature is both funny and indicative of the mess our education system is in. There is too much waffle by everyone, and too little being done on the basics...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One to chew over.., 6 Sep 2013
By 
MC (Hertfordshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Spoilt Rotten: The Toxic Cult of Sentimentality (Kindle Edition)
I liked this book- but that's not to say that I agreed with every single thing the author said!

What I particularly liked was the way he exposed the coercion and brutality which can accompany sentimentality. If you are someone who is uneasy about being forced to use PC language while important issues and injustices are sidelined, then this is a book for you to dip into and tussle with.
I liked the analysis of the post-Diana outpouring of grief and trial by media. There is quite a lot in this book which is a serious warning against woolly and sentimental thinking. Read it with a clear-minded friend. Then enjoy the ensuing arguments!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dalrymple is one of Britain's brilliantly accomplished essayists of the current social malaise, 25 Mar 2014
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This review is from: Spoilt Rotten: The Toxic Cult of Sentimentality (Kindle Edition)
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. He is one of the few lone voices in a wilderness of corporate mendacity and individual self delusion which now pervades almost every level of our corporate society and every social institution. The substitution of psychobabble and sociological newspeak in place of genuine empathy for the genuinely dispossessed, the casual abdication of all personal and social responsibility by those employed to protect the weak and vulnerable are all vividly and sympathetically illustrated through accounts of the often disastrous effects upon individuals at a personal level.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the cult and the change in law, 30 Aug 2013
By 
Mr. M. Macrae (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Spoilt Rotten: The Toxic Cult of Sentimentality (Kindle Edition)
This book describes what has taken place in British law-making over the recent decades. While the reader may consider or approve of the validity of sentimentality at the start, it is most unlikely they will agree with it if they make their way thorough the the whole book.

Some of the arguments are not of the soundbite-kind, and take several paragraphs to explain, again, a rare thing to read, since the attention span of many readers, educated recently, may be quite limited. The writer makes it quite clear that sentimentality has no place in law or the public sphere, no matter how that effects a victim. The law must indeed be blind, and seen to be blind.

The author shows how sentimentality has allowed the law to treat some citizens differently from others, mainly based on race. This is a long way from the aspirations of those who fought long and hard for equality in this country.

The fearful law on thought-crime (hating) is the ultimate sentimental doublethink, raising the aspect of race above all others, even murder or rape. The author correctly describes the inevitable consequences of such disasters on the social landscape, where everyone must self-censor out of thought crime fear.

Arguments are well made. It is rare to find such clear-thinking like this in these sentimental days
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