Brooklyn Public Library


Snark Bite

Feb 25, 2009 11:52 AM | 2 comments

In David Denby’s new book, Snark, "snark" refers to cruel commentary and the laughter elicited by it; or as Walter Kirn describes it in his review, “a species of vicious contemporary humor.” After reading about the book and listening to an interview with Denby himself, it got me wondering if Denby is right, that there is a glut of this kind of commentary and humor in the media, especially now with more anonymous forums such as websites and blogs.

It makes a lot of sense to me that there has been a growing campaign against “cyber bullying,” online bullying amongst junior high and high school-age kids, usually anonymously, on message boards and social networking sites. There seems to be a connection between cyber bullying and snark; Denby argues that the instantaneous, even democratic nature of the internet has bred a special kind of contempt. “The trouble with snark is that it doesn’t engage. It’s almost bulimic: It takes something into its mouth and then regurgitates it,” Denby says.

I tend to agree with him (though I haven’t read his book), but what of the role vicious satire has played in history in helping to bring down corrupt politicians, monarchs and greedy financiers? Might snark help to ease the pain a bit as we watch the economy go down the tubes?

Weigh in: Have you been guilty or the victim of snark? Is it good or bad for society? Who in popular culture do you think is "snarky"?

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2/26/2009 11:12:00 AM #

Interesting post, Jeanie. "Snarky" is a word that does seem to be gaining currency, but perhaps only in the U.S. I think of it as sarcasm with a nasty edge, which is a different thing than wit or even barbed irony. "Snark" gets close and personal and aims to hurt, at least that's how I interpret the word.


3/2/2009 4:05:06 PM #

I tend to agree with you, Joy. But identifying what is snarky or "snappish," as Merriam-Webster's defines it, versus wit seems to be a whole other matter. Thanks for your comment!