Tuesday, May 25, 2004


The New Republic is just a little bit behind the times: they [re]address the Heidi Julavits manifesto on snark that The Believer magazine ran in their inaugural issue more than a year ago. Besides re-hashing some of the major points that Julavits raises in said "manifesto", Ruth Franklin opts for a generous helping of snark herself, in her assessment of the McSweeney's offshoot publication, getting all adjectival on us with words like asinine, masturbatory, annoying... And then there's this perplexing statement:

"What The Believer offers is essentially a book club, and no one goes to a book club to talk seriously about books. It's a gathering for fans, and while there's nothing edifying about fandom, there are worse things than books to be a fan of."

Don't even get me started on the fact that she ends a sentence with "of" [akin to what I've just done myself].

And there are worse things than books to be a fan of: bad books [i.e. the kind that are reviewed in TNR's charmingly quirky online feature called PULPS [tagline: a review of what America is really reading.]]. Also absolutely nothing edifying about this either. Might it have anything to do with the fact that the reviewer of this particular offering of "pulp" is also an editor at Reader's Digest? Enough said? One would expect that a TNR reviewer might find the hallowed middle ground between snark and puff, but instead, all we get is this:

"I love the fact that one of the patients who is killed--the primary murder--experienced a massive head injury... I love the fact that this patient, Gavin, is the catalyst of our story. I love..."

Egads, could this review be any more dreadful? Perhaps I shouldn't analyze it too rigorously, and just accept that it might be the Reader's Digest editor's intention to be banal. But it could be livened up with a few more exclamation marks. Then I might actually believe that it's "a genuinely engaging tale!"

Give it up, TNR, and please stick to your own patented brand of snark in the Peckish and Woodsian tradition.

NB: Better hurry on the above TNR links: their precious online content doesn't remain freely available for long!

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