Friday, June 27, 2014

Our Culture, What's Left of It by Theodore Dalrymple

Theodore Dalrymple is the pseudonym for writer and retired prison doctor Anthony Daniels. He writes about the death of culture in England with the lucidity of a G.K. Chesterton or a C.S. Lewis (without, however, their Christian perspective). Our Culture, What's Left Of It is so non-politically correct that it had me gaping throughout. Whether he’s lambasting Princess Diana, D.H. Lawrence, or Virginia Woolf, or discussing the benefits of government corruption in Italy or the the inability of muslims to hold a frank discussion of ideas, Dalrymple’s clarity and verbal expertise will force you to rethink many common assumptions.

I kept wondering how he gets away with writing this kind of thing, yet at the same time wishing there was a similar American voice. Thanks to Corey at Ink Slinger for alerting me to this mind-stretching title. It was quite a divergence from my regular classic, cozy fiction choices, but worth the extra time and effort. Here are a few salient quotes:

On British society: To break a taboo or to transgress are terms of the highest praise in the vocabulary of modern critics, irrespective of what has been transgressed or what taboo broken. 

On the evil of political correctness: It does violence to people’s souls by forcing them to say or imply what they do not believe but must not question.... And what is political correctness but Newspeak, the attempt to make certain thoughts inexpressible through the reform of language?

On Shakespeare: He is a realist without cynicism and an idealist without utopianism.

On the sexual revolution: No one seems to have noticed, however, that a loss of a sense of shame means a loss of privacy; a loss of privacy means a loss of intimacy; and a loss of intimacy means a loss of depth. There is, in fact, no better way to produce shallow and superficial people than to let them live their lives entirely in the open, without concealment of anything.

Be warned. Although Dalrymple deplores the profanation of culture, he does not hesitate to show how far society has fallen by quoting those who are excessively crude. 


JaneGS said...

Sounds like an interesting book--I haven't heard of Dalrymple, but that kind of voice is an important part of an discussion.

I like the quote about Shakespeare--sometimes I forget how unsentimental he is.

Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

These quotes are great and very piquing!

GretchenJoanna said...

Over the years I have enjoyed many articles by Dalrymple, but I haven't recently read anything -- thank you for the good prod.

Heather said...

We have two of his books, but not the latest one you mentioned. I do read some of his articles at Taki Mag(not for the faint of heart) and have a smile on face because of his dry but insightful humor.