Diagnosis: decadence

Stefan Beck reviews Our Culture, What’s Left of It: The Mandarins and the Masses by Theodore Dalrymple, in The New Criterion:

Among the ordure, both literal and figurative, on display at the Royal Academy of Art’s “Sensation” exhibition was an outsize portrait, based on a mugshot, of the child-murderess Myra Hindley. That this image was made up of a child’s tiny handprint (reproduced many times like the dots in a newspaper photograph) magnified the outrage of some of the public, including mothers of those killed by Hindley.

The British writer and prison doctor Theodore Dalrymple was quickly on the scene, to ask Norman Rosenthal, the Academy’s chief of exhibitions, what he thought of this bit of publicity. Rosenthal chirped that “the picture raises interesting questions.” Dr. Dalrymple called this tiresome bluff and asked what they were, as “it must be possible to formulate them in words.”

For Rosenthal’s stumbling and revealingly disingenuous reply, turn to “Trash, Violence, and Versace: But Is It Art?,” one of about two dozen essays, culled from City Journal, in Dalrymple’s Our Culture, What’s Left of It: The Mandarins and the Masses.

The Doctor’s question, which he might have phrased as a brusque Prove it, shows us the mission of his prose: truth, simply formulated.

More here.