David Denby’s _Snark_

I heard an interview with David Denby on NPR on the drive to work.  The interview was about his book Snark: It’s Mean, It’s Personal, and It’s Ruining Our Conversation.  What little I heard over the radio and what little I just read in the preview pages made me go, “I need to buy this.”

One of the Composition II problems I have to deal with is preventing snark in my students’ argument essays.  Of course, not all of them do this, but those who do — oh lordy!   It’s one of the reasons why I usually ban topics like abortion, gun control, and the death penalty, because the snark can often run like flood water:  It gets into everything and trashes the argument.

Like Lynne Truss’ Eats, Shoots & Leaves, Denby’s Snark is another book that freshman Composition students ought to read, from cover to cover, and then internalize it, absorb it, until the information becomes second nature.

Would make my job a whole heckuva lot easier, I tell ya.

Also, snark is one of those things that I myself try *not* to do on this blog, as well as on online comments.  As a person who has been subjected to snark but also does not condone censorship, I wholeheartedly agree with Denby’s premise: People are free to be as snarky as they want to be, but they must realize that snark does *nothing* positive in actual conversations and, thus, contributes nothing.

As far as I’m concerned, some snarky comments that I’ve seen online may as well be substituted for hot air, coming out of the commentor’s ass.  It’s as valuable as that.

Anyways — Snark.  Need to buy that.


About lizardqueen

If single-mothering were a paid job, I'd be rich. However, it doesn't, so I write (which doesn't pay the bills) and teach (which does). I'm overly-educated in the liberal arts, but that doesn't hinder my ability to be pragmatic and realistic. YAY.
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3 Responses to David Denby’s _Snark_

  1. Zathras says:

    Oops–forgot the quotes. The 3rd paragraph is a direct quote from Screwtape.

  2. Zathras says:

    I heard about this book; it sounded very interesting.

    Snark is bad for discourse for exactly the same reasons as what C.S. Lewis says about flippancy in the Screwtape Letters:

    But flippancy is the best of all. In the first place it is very economical. Only a clever human can make a real Joke about virtue, or indeed about anything else; any of them can be trained to talk as if virtue were funny. Among flippant people the Joke is always assumed to have been made. No one actually makes it; but every serious subject is discussed in a manner which implies that they have already found a ridiculous side to it. If prolonged, the habit of Flippancy builds up around a man the finest armour plating against the Enemy that I know, and it is quite free from the dangers inherent in the other sources of laughter. It is a thousand miles away from joy; it deadens, instead of sharpening, the intellect; and it excites no affection between those who practice it.

    What I found really fascinating was the number of negative reviews for the book on amazon. I have seen a lot of book pages on Amazon, but nothing with almost uniform vociferous hatred as this book. It looks like he really struck a nerve.

  3. convivialdingo says:

    Agreed… Snarky comments have their place – just far, far, far away from me.

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