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Snark [Kindle Edition]

David Denby
2.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (95 customer reviews)

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Book Description

What is snark? You recognize it when you see it -- a tone of teasing, snide, undermining abuse, nasty and knowing, that is spreading like pinkeye through the media and threatening to take over how Americans converse with each other and what they can count on as true. Snark attempts to steal someone's mojo, erase her cool, annihilate her effectiveness. In this sharp and witty polemic, New Yorker critic and bestselling author David Denby takes on the snarkers, naming the nine principles of snark -- the standard techniques its practitioners use to poison their arrows. Snarkers like to think they are deploying wit, but mostly they are exposing the seethe and snarl of an unhappy country, releasing bad feeling but little laughter.

In this highly entertaining essay, Denby traces the history of snark through the ages, starting with its invention as personal insult in the drinking clubs of ancient Athens, tracking its development all the way to the age of the Internet, where it has become the sole purpose and style of many media, political, and celebrity Web sites. Snark releases the anguish of the dispossessed, envious, and frightened; it flows when a dying class of the powerful struggles to keep the barbarians outside the gates, or, alternately, when those outsiders want to take over the halls of the powerful and expel the office-holders. Snark was behind the London-based magazine Private Eye, launched amid the dying embers of the British empire in 1961; it was also central to the career-hungry, New York-based magazine Spy. It has flourished over the years in the works of everyone from the startling Roman poet Juvenal to Alexander Pope to Tom Wolfe to a million commenters snarling at other people behind handles. Thanks to the grand dame of snark, it has a prominent place twice a week on the opinion page of the New York Times.

Denby has fun snarking the snarkers, expelling the bums and promoting the true wits, but he is also making a serious point: the Internet has put snark on steroids. In politics, snark means the lowest, most insinuating and insulting side can win. For the young, a savage piece of gossip could ruin a reputation and possibly a future career. And for all of us, snark just sucks the humor out of life. Denby defends the right of any of us to be cruel, but shows us how the real pros pull it off. Snark, he says, is for the amateurs.

Editorial Reviews


"[A] densely packed, thoroughly [listenable] foray into a contemporary phenomenon." ---The Boston Globe

About the Author

David Denby has been film critic and staff writer at The New Yorker since 1998; prior to that he was film critic of New York magazine. His reviews and essays have also appeared in The New Republic, The Atlantic, and The New York Review of Books. He lives in New York City.

Product Details

  • File Size: 215 KB
  • Print Length: 145 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1416599452
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (January 13, 2009)
  • Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001QA4SXS
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #172,343 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

2.3 out of 5 stars
2.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting mess February 26, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I agree with other reviewers that this book is a mess. At 121 pages, one would think an editor could have easily helped, but it appears that editing is becoming another lost art.

Denby rambles, rages, and contradicts himself frequently. Yet,unlike other reviewers, I enjoyed every page.

I agree with the book's premise (though, at times, Denby doesn't seem to agree with himself). Because of this, I could put up with this short book's many flaws.

And yes, Denby is an elitist. He seems to find "snark" perfectly fine when practiced by those with enough credentials (or an English accent). Honestly, I had to laugh at this bit of hypocrisy.

I must admit I found it refreshing to read such an imperfect book of ideas. I'm leaning towards congratulating Denby for exposing his thoughts in such a free-flowing manner, warts and all.

The subject of the degradation of public discourse is one that needs to be addressed. "Snark", at least, starts the conversation. It also reads like a conversation, which is another reason I found it compelling, even as I scoffed over one point or another.

If you enjoy cocktail party debate, you may enjoy this book. If you're looking for an intellectually consistent, well researched tome, pass it by. Goodness knows, everyone else is recommending you do just that.

Myself, I had a good time with this short romp. Denby obviously enjoyed writing this, and I didn't mind spending a few hours with him in print.
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23 of 28 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Shallow February 1, 2009
Off to a bad start because he doesn't understand his subject, the "what" of current controversy. His argument -- if such it is -- is made worse because Denby simply doesn't understand how opinion is formed and expressed on the Net and elsewhere either. Mr. Denby is thereby sadly ill-suited to opine on the subject of Snark.

Maybe he should look at a recent article in his own New Yorker to see how savagely political debates have gone in this country in the past. He certainly doesn't understand the present. He should stick to media where things move more slowly.

Don't waste your money on this one.
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50 of 64 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Factual Errors + No Humor = General Misunderstanding January 31, 2009
Denby had an interesting book idea, and given that I enjoy political satire and am interested in the way it was used on all sides during the last election cycle, I thought this might be a terrific read. Wrong. I'm not sure how Denby came to possess the many axes he wants to grind, but his criticisms are chockablock with factual errors. Not only did he need the services of basic fact-checking, but his own utter lack of a sense of humor means that he frequently misinterprets what he reads. If his complaint against some bloggers and media is that they attack people without reason and without careful adherence to standards of truthfulness, well... hypocrite, anyone? This is not worth your money; don't bother.
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39 of 50 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars we are not snarky because we agree with David Denby January 30, 2009
Mr Denby decided who is snarky based on whether that person or organization agrees with his view of the world. His writing seems to be more about "see how cool I am" rather than making any clear definitions of "snark". People said/wrote mean things about Hilary Clinton or Ted Kennedy - that's "snark". Make fun of John McCain's age - that's "wit". Attacking any liberal is "snark" but attacking any conservative (especially a female) Mr Denby considers wit.
So if you agree with that generalization, you'll probably like this book.

One chapter stands out in my mind - the one about Maureen Dowd. The subtitle is "Wherein the most talented writer of snark in the country is called to account for her malevolence and naivete'" Isn't it "snarky" to suggest that M's Dowd's whole career has been based on writing nasty comments about politicians? He even blames M's Dowd for Al Gore's loss of the 2000 presidential election. Even the remark "no one...wants Dowd to beat her swords into knitting needles." Is that snark or just plain sexist? I'd say a bit of both.
So here's my thought - if you are a conservative or a Republican (the two don't always go hand in hand, despite what Mr Denby may think), you won't like this book. If you're liberal or a Democrat (again, they don't always go hand in hand as other people may think), you're probably like it.
Your mileage may vary.
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92 of 121 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Totally worthless. January 30, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This book is nothing more than an extension of the extreme nastiness that we had to endure during the 2008 election campaigns. While Denby tries to confuse the reader with scholarly pretensions, the book basically boils down to "people who made nasty comments I agree with are true wits; those I don't agree with are harming our culture". That's why people are saying they aren't getting a clear idea of what Denby means by "snark": he doesn't have one any better than that. Fortunately for him, he picks the correct people to praise, and so he can get favorable reviews in most of the press. For myself, I'm sorry I wasted my time with this book.

Some books are so bad, I refuse to inflict them on others by reselling them or giving them away. This book is in that category. Straight into the recycling bin.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Remainder Bin Ready February 4, 2009
Between the precious presentation, the smarminess, and the inaccuracies, this "book" would be a perfect gift for someone you dislike.

First, Denby is under the Camille Pagliaesque impression that he can issue, from some place in his person, the definition of a term, and then attack that term for the qualities he ascribes to it, independent of anyone else's experience.

He defines snark as lazy, inaccurate, inconsequential nastiness.
This is not what I experience as snark; if it is inaccurate, it isn't snark. If it's lazy, it's not worthy of being called snark. And far from being heartless and inconsequential, snark is the comfort of the powerless, aimed at the powerful. Mere jealousy isn't funny; snark is. Denby simply puts all positive attributes of snark in a basket labelled "Not snark".

At the same time, he makes glaring mistakes, such as misquoting, misunderstanding, and mis-gender-identifying, the great Washington snark blog Wonkette, a blog that was a rock and comfort to despairing citizens needing a laugh for the last eight years.

Perhaps his worst inaccuracy was accusing Wonkette of posting nastiness about Ted Kennedy the day his brain tumor was announced. This is NOT TRUE. Wonkette put up a respectful post wishing the Senator well. The post Denby is remembering ran months earlier, when Kennedy had a minor procedure done. It is easy enough to check; Denby didn't bother. He had a hazy feeling of dissatisfaction and an advance. It's too bad he couldn't have come up with a book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Denby hasn't regard for talent
Denby truly hasn't regard for talent. See his Dark Knight review for details.
Published 9 months ago by J R
3.0 out of 5 stars I liked it, psych
Is there any new information in this book? Self grandiosity exists. We are insecure. We think irony has substance, or at least pretend. Wait, was that snarky?
Published 17 months ago by Anne M Hess
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting ideas; reader terribly affected
I found the information in this book mostly anecdotal. The reader of the book is not Denby but a William Dufris, whose voice may have been chosen because his tone is snarky. Read more
Published on February 19, 2013 by S. Lindow
1.0 out of 5 stars meme mongering
"Perhaps that's one reason why writers of snark seem so bitter. They know they are cutting the path of their own extinction. Read more
Published on November 13, 2012 by mateo52
1.0 out of 5 stars A to-the-point review of _Snark_
The subtitle of _Snark_ is "It's Mean, It's Personal, and It's Ruining the Conversation."

That author Denby proceeds to tell us what snark is and then unleashes snark on... Read more
Published on August 1, 2012 by Daniel L Edelen
1.0 out of 5 stars Rambling nonsense read in an annoying voice
I knew I was in trouble when the book kicked things off by stating that Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert do not use snark. Read more
Published on December 8, 2011 by Aaron Silverman
1.0 out of 5 stars This book has the dubious honor...
...of being only the second book I have ever thrown in the garbage, so that no one else would waste a moment of their precious time reading my copy. Read more
Published on July 3, 2011 by lovemydanes
1.0 out of 5 stars The Entire Book In One Sentence
Whenever a conservative makes a comment, it is mean-spirited and 'snark'; whenever a liberal makes a comment it is well-reasoned and insightful brilliance.
Published on August 30, 2010 by Boiler
1.0 out of 5 stars A snark within a Snark
What a lame excuse this book was for Denby to weave in a range of random cheap shots at people and groups he resents, for whatever reasons. Read more
Published on August 10, 2010 by Heavy Reader
3.0 out of 5 stars An Extended Essay Would Have Been Better
....Although an extended essay is really what this little book is. I agree with those who say "snark" is truly ill-defined, but I think dumbing-down, which is what is really being... Read more
Published on July 19, 2010 by letters2mary
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