Snark by David Denby (3 stars)

Snark by David Denby

Entertaining history of unnecessary written abuse from the New Yorker critic

There’s little doubt that the information superhighway, as no one calls the internet these days, has revolutionised the way we communicate, think and act. But for each benefit to any seismic social shift, there are a myriad of downsides which need to be addressed.

For New Yorker critic and author David Denby, the thing that gets his goat is ‘snark’, written abuse that is neither big nor clever, neither satirical nor perceptive, but are instead attacks on individuals of a personal, below-the-belt, snide and culturally-aware manner. The anonymity which the web provides has facilitated a sea of crass commentary which, according to Denby, ‘is the angry fanfare attending journalism’s decline’.

In this entertaining but rather trim US-focused essay, Denby tracks the origins of literary snark from the drinking dens of ancient Athens through to the New York Times columns of Maureen Dowd. It’s pretty safe to assume that snarkophiles will have a field day on this book.

(Picador)

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