- Paperback: 144 pages
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster (January 12, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1416599460
- ISBN-13: 978-1416599463
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.4 x 8.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 93 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,473,448 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Snark Paperback – January 12, 2010
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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.
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I love how Denby differentiates angry, necessary Jonathan Swift-type "snark" from empty-headed bad snark, which has taken over a lot of the media and is trivial, small-minded, and nasty.
The subject is something that you should have at least a vague knowledge or sense of because one day it will blindside you or your company. A nice example is to monitor the writing of any Gawker writer - see how often one day's post will contradict the one that came before it. That's because they write considering only the immediate post at hand (partly because of the economics of it) and it prevents them from developing a coherent editorial voice. Since everything has to be controversial or critical, what they write ultimately is never about what they have to say but the way in which they have to say it. It's more sad than anything else.
Still, the book is nowhere near as bad as some of the (snarky) reviewers are trying to make it sound. Rather, the author got in over his head and the work suffers for it.
Well worth reading, and perhaps more of a self-evaluation book than I'd imagined. Thank you, Mr. Denby!
Denby, (a critic at the New Yorker and the author of `Great Books' and `American Sucker') tackles the problem head on; first by defining 'snark' and then by also attempting to clarify that which is not snark. Denby points out that while not exactly a new phenomenon (citing references back to Cicero's ancient Rome, Greek poets and even H.L. Mencken) the practice certainly gained mass acceptance in the modern world by virtue of the incendiary confluence of internet freedom and our dark slide into celebrity culture.
In defining snark, Denby is careful to draw distinctions between the qualities that qualify something thusly, while being decernibly different than mere humor or satire. While humor is meant to be funny and satire exists partially to illuminate irony or juxtapositional differences, snark's sole purpose is to cut down, decimate or destroy it's victim; to fell a public giant whilst either hiding behind anonymity or simply without an accurate connection to the facts; or as Denby calls it, "trivial kneecapping.'
Denby does an admirable job of explaining his positions and uses more than enough examples to demonstrate what is (Private Eye, Spy Magazine, Perez Hilton) and what is not (Jon Stewart, Tina Fey, even Keith Olbermann - though they use snark at times) snark. Like an S.I. Hayakawa semantics lecture from the 70's, Denby examines the deeper meaning of the oft-times casual words and phrases we toss around today, but at the same time offers no easy way out of the abyss. Perhaps, fore-warned is fore-armed for now.
Some of the blame for this being an unpleasant read is surely a function of the subject-matter alone, but some is deservedly the author's unwillingness to grapple honestly with that material. As a couple of other reviewers have suggested, too much of this book is a simple-minded "If I agree with it, it's not snark, otherwise it is."
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That author Denby proceeds to tell us what snark is and then unleashes snark...Read more