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Life At The Bottom

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Overview

Here is a searing account-probably the best yet published-of life in the underclass and why it persists as it does. Theodore Dalrymple, a British psychiatrist who treats the poor in a slum hospital and a prison in England, has seemingly seen it all. Yet in listening to and observing his patients, he is continually astonished by the latest twist of depravity that exceeds even his own considerable experience. Dalrymple's key insight in Life at the Bottom is that long-term poverty is caused not by economics but by a...
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Overview

Here is a searing account-probably the best yet published-of life in the underclass and why it persists as it does. Theodore Dalrymple, a British psychiatrist who treats the poor in a slum hospital and a prison in England, has seemingly seen it all. Yet in listening to and observing his patients, he is continually astonished by the latest twist of depravity that exceeds even his own considerable experience. Dalrymple's key insight in Life at the Bottom is that long-term poverty is caused not by economics but by a dysfunctional set of values, one that is continually reinforced by an elite culture searching for victims. This culture persuades those at the bottom that they have no responsibility for their actions and are not the molders of their own lives. Drawn from the pages of the cutting-edge political and cultural quarterly City Journal, Dalrymple's book draws upon scores of eye-opening, true-life vignettes that are by turns hilariously funny, chillingly horrifying, and all too revealing-sometimes all at once. And Dalrymple writes in prose that transcends journalism and achieves the quality of literature.
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Editorial Reviews

New York Sun
Mr. Daniels’s best essays cast a spell almost from the opening line.
Detroit Free Press
A landmark experience is reading Life at the Bottom…
Norman Podhoretz
Truthful—therefore morally courageous and intellectually rigorous.
Hilton Kramer
Brilliant social analysis...a master chronicle of life at the bottom.
Denis Dutton
Lucid, unsentimental, and profoundly honest...Dalrymple is one of the great essayists of our age.
Thomas Sowell
This devastating account and analysis of underclass life—and the elite ideas which support it—is a classic for our times.
George F. Will
It is a truism that ideas have consequences, but a truism is rarely illustrated as implacably as in this book.
Peggy Noonan
Theodore Dalrymple is the best doctor-writer since William Carlos Williams.
Liberty Press - Bruce Ramsey
Once in a long while a writer comes along with a vision so powerful that it shakes you. Theodore Dalrymple is that kind of writer.
Thomas Sowell
Searing...this is not dry theory, but living reality...a classic for our times.
New York Post
Arts and Letters Daily
Lucid, unsentimental, and profoundly honest.
Publishers Weekly
Filled with poignant stories of women and men trapped in destructive behaviors and environments, this volume puts forth a vision of the modern world and of intellectualized modernism as hell but offers few concrete or theoretical solutions. Dalrymple, a noted conservative columnist in London's the Spectator, collects pieces he wrote for the conservative City Journal, using his own work as a physician in British slums and prisons as fodder for an analysis of the underclass: "not poor... by the standards of human history" but trapped in "a special wretchedness" from which it cannot emerge. Most of his patients put their violence in the passive: the murderer who says "the knife went in" as though he had no control; the man who beat his girlfriend and then exclaimed, " `I totally regret everything that happen' [sic] as if... [it] were a typhoon in the East Indies." The fault, Dalrymple asserts, is not bad environments, but a pervasive liberal view and agenda that creates "passive, helpless victims," encourages the idea that the acceptance of "unconscious motivations for one's acts" obviates personal responsibility, and the "widespread acceptance of social determinism." Dalrymple makes many astute observations on British social attitudes about wealth, the tattooing of white youths and urban redevelopment, and his writing is graceful and often witty. But his main points get hammered home too quickly and too often. His critique of liberalism and the welfare state, while sometimes provocative, is spelled out in the introduction and repeated again and again. While Dalrymple is preaching to the converted, his vivid writing and often heartbreaking stories rise above his deeply felt but repetitivesocial analysis. (Nov.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781566635059
  • Publisher: Dee, Ivan R. Publisher
  • Publication date: 1/28/2003
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 284
  • Sales rank: 214,821
  • Product dimensions: 5.82 (w) x 8.88 (h) x 0.73 (d)

Meet the Author

Theodore Dalrymple is a physician and psychiatrist who practices in England. He writes a column for the London Spectator, contributes frequently to the Daily Telegraph, and is a contributing editor of the Manhattan Institute's City Journal. His other books include Our Culture, What's Left of It, Mass Listeria, and So Little Done. He lives in Birmingham, England.
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Table of Contents

Introduction vii
Grim Reality
The Knife Went In 5
Goodbye, Cruel World 15
Reader, She Married Him--Alas 26
Tough Love 36
It Hurts, Therefore I Am 48
Festivity, and Menace 58
We Don't Want No Education 68
Uncouth Chic 78
The Heart of a Heartless World 89
There's No Damned Merit in It 102
Choosing to Fail 114
Free to Choose 124
What Is Poverty? 134
Do Sties Make Pigs? 144
Lost in the Ghetto 155
And Dying Thus Around Us Every Day 167
Grimmer Theory
The Rush from Judgment 181
What Causes Crime? 195
How Criminologists Foster Crime 208
Policemen in Wonderland 221
Zero Intolerance 233
Seeing Is Not Believing 244
Index 257
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 16, 2006

    More truth than we are used to.

    Dalrymple has seen the underclass and its habits. As they are 'anecdotes' they somehow don't count. The aplolgists come out and denounce him, then they go back to their champagne and take more classes with no tangible value. Ignore Dalrymple at your peril.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 2003

    Unintentionally humorous drivel

    This is a painfully self-righteous and badly written read. Dalrymple comes across as a typical stiff and pretentious Englishman who confuses modernity with vulgarity. I picture him standing on his door step shaking his fist after a retreating motorcycle shouting 'Kids these days!!' and wondering aloud why the poor don't just go to their Caribbean summer homes when they're feeling down. In his effort to prove that all English negativity, including ethnic stereotypes and bad architecture, are the fault of bad attitude, he reminds me of just another Aspen-style guru in Connover's 'White Out'. The book could have been called: 'I Did My Best and for What: a guilty upper classman's disassociation of guilt.' He is able to successfully argue a few old tried and true clichés,(kids don't think school is hip, people who are bored drink more at clubs and act funny), but overall he falls into the problem of 'F'ed Companies' in that he ends up simply listing observations instead of delving into the academic task of analysis. He is overcome by the rose tinted spectacles of false nostalgia for an imagined time when the church forced everyone to act respectably, public housing and assistance were available only to suitably clean and grateful 2-parent families, and beautiful women only said 'yes' out of the purest, emotionally mature, virginal love. The book is more the author's ego trip for his martyrdom (Look at me, I condescended to study the savages in their own habitat!) than anything resembling an accurate treaties, and is often rather humorous as such.

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 5, 2003

    This is a must for Americans to read as well

    In this book Mr. Dalrymple discusses what is happening in Great Britain, but you can replace the words Great Britain with USA just as easily. Dumbed down education, collapse of the family structure, indifference to out of wedlock births, and the trickling up of the underclass lifestyle to the middle and upper spheres of society. You doubt? Then read the section which tells you just who some of the hooligans are at the soccer games, and then replace the word soccer with American sports. Which sport? Take your pick. Space precludes any more of my opinion, but Mr. Dalrymples covers many more aspects of the underclass life and lifestyle which you the reader should find interesting, if not alarming. I'll say again that this is a book all Americans should read. But apparently the local library I wanted to give this book to doesn't see it that way. They declined as of this writing to put it on the shelf.

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