Wednesday, June 30, 2004


Somehow, I have this vision of Dale Peck removing his belt and putting another notch on it every time he discovers he's been mentioned in another journalistic treatment describing his essentially snarky ways. I'm beginning to loathe this word, snark. In the beginning, by which I mean last year, when Heidi Julavits made the word popular in her Believer magazine manifesto [a word that is completely inappropriate here, yet nevertheless the noun that has been applied to the journalistic treatment that got the ball rolling on the whole snark brouhaha, presumably because her own book got a bad review], snark was perceived to be the antithesis of puff, the latter being the type of nonsense found on dust jackets and back covers, something akin to: "a compulsively gripping page-turner... you won't want it to end!" As an endlessly naive individual, my first reaction is to believe this tripe when I read it. Hence, a trip to the cash register, dropping at least twenty dollars in the process. I'm a prime example of how the book publisher's marketing strategy is supposed to work. Bottom line is this: puff is plentiful, people tend to believe it, and it sells books. So why lament its demise when it fluorishes, indeed, when it thrives?

[Note to self: determine whether there is a difference between puff and polite literary criticism]

It's a shame that snark has come to represent any brand of literary criticism that is less than glowing. Really, did we need another word to replace the more meaningful and descriptive word, criticism?

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