Monday Books has published a new excerpt from their Dalrymple collection “Second Opinion” on the blog they maintain for this purpose.
I can’t recommend the book highly enough. Many readers of this blog seem to have become aware of Dalrymple via “Life at the Bottom“, and “Second Opinion” similarly focuses on his experiences working with denizens of the slums, although this book relates his interactions with these patients via narrative, with hilarious results:
‘Does your current boyfriend live with you?’ I asked.‘No, he’s in prison,’ she replied.‘What for?’‘Kidnap.’‘Of whom?’‘A man. He owed him some money.’‘He’s been in prison before?’‘Yes, lots of times.’‘And he’s violent to you?’‘Yes. You see, he’s very jealous. He doesn’t like me to talk to no one. That’s how the rows start.’‘Has he had his hands round your throat?’‘Yes, a few times. But he’s never squeezed hard.’‘And what else?’‘Well, he’s give me a broken rib, and he’s slashed me across the back with a smashed glass. But don’t get me wrong, doctor, he’s not a bad person. He’s brilliant with the kids.’
I am just working my way through Life at the Bottom. I came to it pretty much last, and I recongnise some of the essays from elsewhere. They really are excellent. In that book I think he distils and deals with some most of his main themes definitively. I think TD may be the greatest essayist of our age – certainly one of the most important as he is trying to defend civilisation itself. (I particular enjoyed his account of going to an Oasis concert (thugs) and his night out on the town.)
As for the funny comment above, it reminds me of another I read recently (probably in LATB):
“It’s me boyfriend, he hit me.”
“Does he hit you often?”
“No. Usually he head-butts me.”
But she loves him, of course.
Just finally on LATB, it struck me that yet again TD has been let down on cover design, which shows two old men apparently living in a homeless shelter, which is not at all what the book is about. I believe the best cover so far has been that for “Our Culture, What’s Left of It”.
Gavin, I still remember the very first conversation Steve and I had about Dalrymple. I had just bought LATB and read the first few essays. I excitedly called Steve to tell him about this Dalrymple guy. I read him the line you quoted, and we both laughed out loud.
I disagree about the cover, though. The book isn’t specifically about homeless shelters, but I thought it conveyed the meaning of the book pretty well. The older man on the left appears to be much more cleanly dressed, and seems to be saying something to the other man. I interpreted it as someone who works at the shelter giving advice to a resident. But that’s just my interpretation or imagination. I could be wrong.
I remember spending a few moments idly gazing at that cover, wondering which of the two of them is supposed to be the Doctor, and which is supposed to be At The Bottom 🙂
Yes 2nd Opinion, Our Culture and life at the bottom are the 3 great ones.
I’ve been a bit disappointed by the book “Spoilt Rotton” lately. There is only one really magnificent chapter in it called “Make Poverty History” where he writes about Africa. His common sense knowlege there is mindblowing and uses his knowledge from his years in Africa to put all those patronising requests for “aid” to Africa in perspective. That wonderful chapter was the only reason I did not get rid of the book after reading it. There was also a bit about “Misery Lit” type books etc. and what he thinks it’s popularity says about our society. Those 2 things were worth the price of the book. The rest did not appeal so much.
The Vichy Syndrome also was not as good as the aforementioned three great top books, but it was O.K. It would have been better with a bit of editing. His books are better when they are presented in short essay form really.
Hi Clinton 🙂 Yes, I see it could be interpreted like that. I found the image actually on Corbis:
You do of course get washed up people of that age but it seems to me TD generally writes of a more modern phenomenon of cultural malaise and therefore any of these images would also suit well:
btw Another short but very good book about the vulgarity of contemporary British culture is this one:
I kind of agree. I think we’re used to an extremely high standard from TD and in those two books there is some musing and things don’t seem quite as pithy.
I still liked both though and agree that the final chapter on liberal naivite re. Africa was excellent. They should give him a column in The Guardian (or, AutoTrader Insert, as my friends and I call it – for it would not exist without financial support from that other publication).
i discovered a yourtube page that has this submit information virtually word for word. is it your video?