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5.0 out of 5 stars The dissecters dissected.
Strange book. Stan Laurel said that you couldn't dissect humour. But snark isn't humour, not even a poor substitute for it. David Denby dismantles and analyses snark here in an incisive and painfully accurate way without descending to the level of the offenders.
If you would know the difference between a merry... or even bitter wit and the acidic bile we get served...
Published on 2 May 2010 by R. A. Caton

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Disappointing Snark Hunt
I was looking forward to this book as I fully agree with the author that too much journalism relies on personal, snide and low "humorous" attacks, and as much as I love the Internet and the benefits and opportunities it brings, I have to admit that the spread of a knowing social group that can make those finger-pointing, bullying remarks about others has propelled with...
Published on 22 Sep 2009 by Amazon Customer


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I don't want to be snarky, but..., 22 Oct 2009
By 
M. W. Hatfield "mwhatfield" (Gainsborough, Lincolnshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Snark (Paperback)
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..this book just doesn't do it. it's not funny enough to be enjoyed for its wit, nor serious enough to truly attack the modern cultural phenomenon of trolling or snarking. It's a shame, bacause there's a really good idea here, and a powerful attack on our thirst for negativity is long overdue, but the book is just okay, where it needed to be savage or hilarious. A very good idea, but just misses the mark. A real shame, I think.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Disappointing Snark Hunt, 22 Sep 2009
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Amazon Customer "maria2222" (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Snark (Paperback)
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I was looking forward to this book as I fully agree with the author that too much journalism relies on personal, snide and low "humorous" attacks, and as much as I love the Internet and the benefits and opportunities it brings, I have to admit that the spread of a knowing social group that can make those finger-pointing, bullying remarks about others has propelled with the increasing popularity of the web.

Unfortunately, my reading experience went sour right from the start. I know it is not an easy subject to cover and by writing this book; the author put himself in the firing line of the people he criticised and those who would see him as just another old fogey complaining about the youth of today. However, by spending the first chapters almost making excuses for writing the book, impressing upon us his very varied and highly developed sense of humour and repeating what snark is NOT and only leaving fairly short (repetitive) passages about what it is, he completely lost me. The historical recap on humour was a redeeming feature although I'm not sure it did much for the definition or the purpose of this book - which by the end I really didn't care much about...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but in the end unsatisfying, 13 Dec 2009
This review is from: Snark (Paperback)
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This is an academic essay about "snark" - defined by the author as that kind of insult which seems on the face of it to be witty and satirical, but is in fact just vicious and not backed up by any kind of fact. At least, I THINK that's what he means. He says so, but then makes quite a lot of exceptions, so I did lose the plot from time to time!
It's an entertaining read, but is almost totally American in it's bias and examples given. The only British references are to Private Eye, which he deems to be the last vestige of a truly free press - good man! He also touches on examples from writers in ancient history, such as Juvenal. However, for the most part, the journalists and commentators cited were totally unknown to me, and so I couldn't get decently annoyed! There also didn't really seem to be any kind of conclusion, so I was ultimately left feeling a bit flat.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A journalist rants against jokes he disagrees with, 10 Oct 2009
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Pete "Pete" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Snark (Paperback)
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If you're going to write a whole book ranting about a cultural phenomenon, you need to define your terms pretty clearly. I got half way through this and I still didn't understand quite what "Snark" means.

Snark, it seems, is sarcastic humour. But it's not all sarcastic humour; it's specifically that with which the author disagrees. Criticising Obama's lack of executive experience, it seems, is "Snark", and indeed racist Snark. The waves of bile directed at Reagan and the Bushes, however, don't seem to be "Snark" and indeed go largely undiscussed. In even a cursory investigation into corrosive name-calling in America, that's an odd omission.

It's not just political either; Private Eye was indulging in Snark when it used to mock The Beatles, apparently. But not, one assumes, the Stones. Never mind their overblown hype and self-mythologising; this goes in the "Snark" bin because the Beatles were good.

What he seems to be getting at is that the tone of discussion suffers now that any old idiot can get their thoughts into print. That's an interesting point, but the implication that life was somehow better when only journalists could rant to an audience is deeply unconvincing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent and well written, but not massively entertaining, 22 Jun 2010
By 
Russell Smith "egobreed" (Glasgow, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Snark (Paperback)
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This slim volume is mildly diverting and occasionally interesting. It starts promisingly enough, as an angry rant against the kind of cheap-shot celeb-baiting writing that passes for journalism these days. The tone is, encouragingly, almost Hunter S. Thompson-esque in places, but soon runs out of steam, and the book becomes less of a rallying cry, and more of a tenuous trawl through 'the history of snark'.

This is sporadically interesting, and contains a few amusing examples, both of cheap, lazy snidey finger-pointing, and of the more cultured satire which Mr. Denby clearly has great respect for. Unfortunately, the book is not focussed enough to be a genuinely inspiring polemic, but neither is the writing funny enough to recommend for mere entertainment.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Snark hunt finds only its author, 13 Jan 2010
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This review is from: Snark (Paperback)
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"Snark" has a noble goal: to define snark, plot its history, examine its effect on modern discourse, and consider its impact on our future. Alas the book accomplishes none of this, engaging instead in a largely structureless and pointless series of critiques on transgressive discourse the author takes fault with, from internet comments to Private Eye.

The central failing is that Denby fails to strongly define snark beyond a vague sense of "not very funny insult". It has particular properties - it's mean and personal, apparently, and requires knowingness, but only of a certain kind - but from his own examples, these properties are neither necessary nor sufficient conditions. The "Fourth Fit" (the chapters are "fits" in a merely nominal allusion to Carroll) is entitled "Anatomy of a Style", and raises hope of at least a qualitative description. It is here that we are supposed to believe that one of the essential principles of snark is "Attack Expensive, Underperforming Restaurants". In such a context, analysis or even meaningful identification of snark is difficult.

Without a central thesis or a clear sense of its subject, the book reads as a disconnected pile of complaints and the occasional, paragraph-long and soon-forgotten insight. The snark piles up to add breadth, and increase the word count, but ideas proposed are seldom revisited, and do not build towards any conclusions. The two-chapter "history" of snark makes a rare attempt to knit together a sense of integrity, linking a half-dozen practitioners of snark over several thousand years, but is unconvincing. The aforementioned "principles" are, on closer inspection, a mixture of qualities of snark, and categorised examples of snark by subject and practitioner: a poorly-disguised catalogue of invective. The need to vent is no more obvious than in the penultimate "fit", a charmless takedown of the writing of someone called Maureen Dowd. While I'm sure this is of great personal significance to the author, it has nothing to offer the reader.

Off-topic tangents are frequent, and do much to expose the author's pet hates. My interest waned as the author spent several pages espousing a life cycle of celebrity media exposure of which snark is but a small component. When Denby attempts to critique the Washington blog "Wonkette" for its snark-heavy output, he meaninglessly extends his criticism to the Gawker Network of blogs. This is obvious nonsense: in what sense are gadget-fetish blog Gizmodo, or DIY haven Livehacker, snarky? It reads like an uncritical sneer, and has no place in a book that dares to take others to task for fuzzily-conceived put-downs. In any work these would break the discursive flow, but in a 120-page paperback they reek of padding.

Ultimately, the blurb's "manifesto" promise seems like a sham, the book a poorly-disguised vector for complaints the author could not wrestle into an actual argument. The final, discursively redundant chapter on invective that the author does not consider to be snark reads like a desperate attempt to rebut such an accusation. I do not take issue with Denby's irritations, and there are insights which would merit further discussion. However the balance is so heavily tipped in favour of the former that the latter is simply not worth extracting. While there is a fantastic book to be written about snark, this is not it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Vague, 25 Oct 2009
By 
A. Skudder (Crawley, West Sussex) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Snark (Paperback)
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In this book the author sets out to complain about a phenomenon he calls 'snark' but has more than a little trouble actually defining it. He describes it as being negative comment, done in a snide, knowing way, but does not really succeed in making clear the difference between snark and satire, with the classification of some examples being very arbitrary or subjective.

I think that what it boils down to is that snark is satire he does not approve of and satire is snark that he does approve of.

Not that the book is useless: far from it. The diversion into historical snark is particularly interesting in its description of the ancient Greeks and Romans and then onto Swift. I never thought I would enjoy reading about Juvenal so much.

The book is diverting and entertaining enough, but insubstantial and not very rigorous. Really David Denby shoudl read some of the selected columns of Jan Moir, Richard Littlejohn and Jeremy Clarkson and write an expanded version.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Up close and personal, 22 Oct 2009
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purpleheart (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Snark (Paperback)
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'This is an essay about a strain of nasty, knowing abuse spreading like pinkeye though the national conversation - a tone of snarking insult provoked and encouraged by the new hybrid world of print, television, radio, and the Internet.'

You know what? David Denby's thesis isn't fully thought through - he has to give us too may examples of what he doesn't mean by snark and his definitions are too caught up in his political affiliations to be persuasive. But, you can't help feeing that he is onto something... there are some things that are diferent about the internet and how its anonymity and pervasiveness has fostered 'snark'.

Denby argues that we don't want to do away with satire or even savage insult but must see the distinction between 'toughness and cynicism, incisiveness and fatuous sarcasm, satire and free-floating cruelty'.

He isn't able to fully articulate the distinctions but there are interesting examples, some thought provoking arguments and it does address fundamental issues; the lack of fact checking and how opinion and comment is replacing news.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit disappointing, 21 Oct 2009
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Smatch (South West) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Snark (Paperback)
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When I recieved this I was excited to read a fresh collection of thoughts into the world of 'Snark', because I hate it in journalism and it is coming even more apparent these days and overlooked by the most part.

The introduction is disappointing because I was expecting to be told exactly what 'Snark' is with a definition maybe, but nothing but a small 'description' that leaves you as confused as you were before!, so you have to go through the first part of the book a bit hazy on what he is actually saying. I also got annoyed because I kept getting the impression that Denby was giving too many reasons as to why he was writing this book, almost as though even he didn't believe in what he was doing. But maybe that's just me.

I think it is a waste, because I think a proper book written on this contraversial subject would be brilliant. I had high expectations and couldn't wait for it to arrive, which is probably not a good thing when you're reading a book by an author you don't know much about. So I was a bit disappointed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars confusing, 19 Oct 2009
By 
Matthew H "Matthew H" (Manchester, UK) - See all my reviews
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What is Snark? Having read this book I can honestly say I have no idea. The author spends an awful long time trying to explain the answer but never hits the mark. He either tells us what Snark is not, or tells us it is something that he earlier said it isn't. In fact, my last sentence, which might be considered confusing, pretty much sums up the entire book.
Having said that, the book is fairly well written and is amusing in parts but, quite frankly, I'd give this one a miss.
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Snark by David Denby (Paperback - 4 Sep 2009)
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