In this highly entertaining book, 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 poi...
©2009 David Denby; (P)2009 Tantor
This is the humanities done well. In the tradition of Susan Sontag's essay on the kitsch, Denby succeeds in expanding our consciousness. He identifies a class of communication which is rampant and dangerous, and through its identification and analysis offers some immunization.
Regrettably, the narrator reads with a sarcastic voice which doesn't fit the character of the essay, (I suppose the casting call was for someone snarky.) The effort of listening through the narrator is well rewarded by the books content.
Snark is a style of communication which is:
1) aiming to be humorous
2) usually forming an invective
3) invokes knowingness to other: that is it separates an out group ('them') from an in group ('us) by reference to in group knowledge or oblique in group belief proclamation.
4) And, most importantly, is logically inconsistent, or untrue, or badly evidenced.
The best sellers page on this site makes me very sad.
This book is essential reading for anyone interested in popular culture, journalism, politics, comedy etc. The narrator is likely the worst possible choice the publisher could have made and I sincerely hope they re-record it, but it is still far more than worth it.
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