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Spoilt Rotten: The Toxic Cult of Sentimentality Paperback – May 1, 2011

4.6 out of 5 stars 42 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


* ‎"Excellent... We have created an unprecedentedly egocentric generation, where giving in to your emotions is a human right." Neil Hamilton Sunday Express, five star full-page review * ‎'Witty, always punchy and sometimes rapier-like.' Tom Adair, Scotsman * '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... he stands out.' Toby Young, 4-star page review Mail on Sunday * 'Excellent.' Toby Young, telegraph.co.uk * 'Entertaining - really good stories.' Nigel Burke, Express * 'Inimitable.' Specator.co.uk * Telegraph Bookshop No 1 Bestseller * Amazon Top 5 Modern Culture Bestseller

About the Author

Theodore Dalrymple is the pseudonym of Dr Anthony Daniels, a former prison doctor in Birmingham. He writes frequently for the Guardian, Daily Telegraph and the Spectator where he had a column. This is his seventh book.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Gibson Square Books (May 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1906142254
  • ISBN-13: 978-1906142254
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 5.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,370,478 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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 production values are inferior. The lettering of the title is a typographer's nightmare, each letter individually printed on a card and "pasted" like a ransom note. There are many copyediting errors. 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. I have noticed that unlike Christopher Hitchens in his recent memoir, Dalrymple does not pontificate on what he does not know, and he tells the reader when he is speculating and lacks expertise - see his last endnote.
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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
The content of this work is typical Dalrymple -- it is clear, logical, and looks at the problem from the perspective of a number of disciplines and cultural vantage points. It is not simplistic and recognizes contradictions and complexity while still defining a way forward. It is refreshing to see someone take on this problem from so many different angles, and especially to identify the socially-corrosive aspects of sentimentality with respect to their bullying coercion to participate.

As is also typical, he does not lazily rely on external reference after reference and leans more on thought experiments and logical conclusion. You can test many of his ideas for yourself.

The packaging of the book is questionable, though. While the subtitle -- "The Toxic Cult of Sentimentality" -- is right on target with respect to the book's content, the main title -- "Spoilt Rotten" -- is not, and nor is the picture on the dust jacket. Although you could make a connection between sentimentality and a childish outlook on life, the content has very little to do with children itself. A similar mistake was made with "The New Vichy Syndrome", where the subtitle warned of European barbarism but the content suggested that it was not a problem. There are also some typographical errors.
2 Comments 29 of 31 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This was the third book I have read by T. Dalrymple in two weeks. I have since gone on to read another three of his books. Mr. Dalrymple is a fascinating writer, the kind of author who makes so much sense it must completely irritate the kind of people he exposes with his illuminating arguments using history, philosophy, and the classics. His books are not easily read without some kind of familiarity with a liberal arts education from years past. I am an older adult, so I remember the U.S. of the fifties and sixties, before our culture became coarse and vulgar. Not that it was all milk and honey - and he acknowledges the changes that needed to happen.

I highly recommend readiny anything by Mr. Dalrymple. I will rue the day I no longer have any books by him I still need to read and I have to wait for his next book to be published.
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