Monday, June 8, 2015

What I'm Reading Now - Life at the Bottom

Life at the Bottom: The Worldview that makes the Underclass

Dalrymple, Theodore
Ivan R. Dee, Chicago 2001
ISBN 9781566635059

Why I’m reading it:

I don’t recall where I first ran into this book; it may have come up in a Facebook conversation, or maybe someone at National Review referred to it. Anyway, I picked it up and was hooked right from the start. 

 What I think of it:

Dalrymple’s prose style really caught me. He pulls no punches and makes no apologies. At the same time, his compassion for the people he treats and chronicles is evident on every page. He points out the behavior that creates and contributes to the misery suffered by the patients at his hospital, and unsparingly identifies where the patients have done this to themselves, and where the supposedly sympathetic British intelligentsia have supplied them with foolish reasons for doing so.

Reading any of these essays produced the same effect for me. I found myself in each chapter thinking “Really? Can he be serious?  How did it get that bad?” Yes, he is serious, yes it is that bad, and Dalrymple, because he lives in the one world (the intelligentsia) and works in the other (the Bottom) he can see clearly how the two have influenced one another. Yet the two groups rarely come into direct contact, and despise each other in the concrete, no matter what airy theories (‘empowerment’, ‘diversity’ and the like) they espouse in the abstract. 

Will I finish it?

I already have. The book is a collection of twenty-two essays; each readable in a fifteen minute coffee break. Dalrymple is very easy to read, just hard to bear. 

Would I recommend it?

Only to someone who isn’t going to be easily depressed by the disheartening picture Dalrymple paints of life in lower class England. His indictment of fashionable liberalism will certainly sting anyone of that political bent. 

Gimme a quote:

“It is a mistake to suppose that all men, at least all Englishmen want to be free. On the contrary, if freedom entails responsibility, many of them want none of it. They would happily exchange their liberty for a modest (if illusory) security.”  This is the introduction to chapter one.

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