This new collection of essays from the New English Review is very welcome. As always, Theodore Dalrymple's writing is beautifully crafted, subtle and thought-provoking. He has the ability with which he credits Dr Johnson and (in this collection) Thomas Gray, of being able to formulate an idea in such a way that one is convinced one's always thought it. He also has that ability - fundamental to a great essayist - to use a trivial topic in order to make a universal point. The amusing essay on the Sock Fairy (the malicious sprite who ensures that one can never fully match socks on their exit from the washing machine) may seem to be simply a jeu d'esprit, but the writer uses those missing socks as a springboard for meditation upon the paranoiac tendencies of mankind, and our pleasure in thinking evil of others: in this, though not in anything else, he reminds one of Chesterton.
Slightly flabby here and there, the author's second thoughts on things are enlightening, when one has had the same doubts about the way we live today. Penetrating, especially the case of the 'reformed' prisoner. The continuing story of the decline of the Western morality.