Magical Realism, Writing, Fiction, Politics, Haiku, Books

domingo, febrero 22, 2009


In a New York Times review of David Denby's book, Snark, we find this humdinger of a paragraph by Walter Kirn:

The humor that stirs this wrongful laughter is “snark,” named for a fictional creature from the poem “The Hunting of the Snark,” by Lewis Carroll. As a species of vicious contemporary humor, it is defined by Denby in many ways — so many, in fact, that the creature never materializes as anything more than a shadow on a wall that Denby keeps shooting at yet never hits. In his opening pages he defines snark negatively — as a practice that certain famed comics are often charged with, but undeservedly and inaccurately because they actually trade in “irony” and also, one can’t help but gather from Denby’s remarks, because they’re politically virtuous in their japery, even when their words seem cruel and harsh. Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart are two of these unfairly maligned non-snarkers. Sarah Silverman escapes unscathed, while Penn Jillette, an avowed libertarian who entertains mostly in Las Vegas nowadays, and Sarah Palin, an avowed big-game hunter who’s safely tucked away up north somewhere, are portrayed as snarkers par excellence. So is John McCain, coincidentally, and pretty much everyone who ever tweaked Barack Obama for any reason — especially if they did so on the Internet and indulged in prejudice. But “hate speech” isn’t snark either, Denby writes, because it aims to “incite,” not get chuckles, and because it’s “directed at groups,” not individuals. Denby finds such discourse loathsome, presumably, but he states early on that it’s no concern of his, first because it’s a constitutional right, and second, because he feels sorry for nuts who use it: “the legions of anguished, lost people on Web sites and the social networking site Facebook” who are “looking for a way to release fear.” In other words, vengeful morons can’t be snarky, only parties to bigoted violence now and then, which may be horrific and tragic but isn’t annoying. No, what really bugs Denby’s mandarin side is a much subtler species of expression: humor that celebrates “the power to ridicule” and is indulged in by semi-sophisticates who seek to sound clued-in and hip so as to soothe their feelings of “dispossession” and elevate their wounded self-esteem by sneering at folks like — get ready to be outraged! — the convicted insider trader Ivan Boesky, whose notorious taste in gaudy baubles was once satirized in the late Spy magazine.

Kirn deserves some kind of an award, maybe a Golden Skewer, for this paragraph. Bravo.

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