In the Mail: Snark (paperback)

Snark: It’s Mean, It’s Personal, and It’s Ruining Our Conversation by David Denby

Library Journal

“It’s Mean, It’s Personal, and It’s Ruining Our Conversation,” exclaims Denby (Great Books), longtime film critic for The New Yorker. The noun snark, an apparent conflation of “snide” and “remark,” harkens back to Lewis Carroll’s fictional animal, though there’s no need to “hunt” for this incarnation of the beast; it’s ubiquitous according to Denby, and it’s nasty: “the most dreadful style going, and ultimately debilitating.” Not to be confused with satire, which at least has human betterment at its heart, snark plays on others’ vulnerabilities to no good end. Snark is not a recent phenomenon; Denby traces its origins back to ancient Greece and is not himself above naming names, counting writers James Wolcott, Joe Queenan, Tom Wolfe, and Maureen Dowd (who actually gets a whole “fit,” as the book’s sections are called, to herself) among its better-known current practitioners. Alice Roosevelt Longworth might not have appreciated it, but this relatively brief, witty (a quality he claims that snark lacks) work is highly recommended for all libraries.

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