The book got better.
I was immediately disappointed when I started reading, but it improved. Begun as a series of lectures, it still has too much tendentious point-making – like a doctoral these or, well… a lecture – but it turned into something interesting in spite of itself.
Some wonderful deep research into a series of literary figures (Wyndham Lewis, T.S. Eliot, George Orwell and others) to capture a sort of deep seated disgust with the masses (or the proles or whatever you want to call ’em; Carey makes a good point that it’s a fiction they’re appalled by and what they thought of as the masses never existed).
But his larger thesis, which is basically that works like The Wasteland (and Modernism, in general) were written complicated as a gate to keep out the unwashed was not well proven (and really, he didn’t even seem to be trying to prove it; he just said and moved on to show that some of these intellectuals were kind of morally ‘icky’).