Nobody can stand the guy. And it’s not like he’s mean and slashing; he’s just a drag. You can imagine him in conversation with his pompous beard wagging from side to side and the long uhhhhhh‘s between sentences as he dredges up his points.
When I say “nobody,” I mean this: 20 years ago a coworker read Denby’s review of Gorillas in the Mist and said, “He’s always so overblown,” and she hadn’t even seen the movie — it was just his voice, the way he wrote. Eight years ago, trying to define “douchebag” for another coworker, I said, “Like David Denby” and he said, “Oh God, yeah.” Three days ago my mother said, “That David Denby is such a jerk.” And whenever I look at The New Yorker and see his name I think, “Too bad,” whereas when I see Anthony Lane’s byline I think, “Well, there might be some good jokes.” Of course there might not, but the sight of Lane’s name doesn’t in itself make me turn the page.
Via Andrew Sullivan, Reason Online reviews Denby’s new book, Snark. Apparently Denby is trying to shame “douchebag” out of the national discourse. I would too, if I were him. The review says Denby downgrades Tom Wolfe — disturbing if true — and that he doesn’t have much use for Maureen Dowd. The second point is also disturbing, because it means Denby can’t be entirely bad. Of course, Reason may disagree: “the reader comes close to simply telling him to lighten up, rather than explaining that Dowd is a satirist, not a sexist political scientist.” Hah, no. Maureen Dowd is a twit.
The big problem with snark isn’t that it’s mean or shallow, it’s that the people who want to be snarky are inferior. The word sprang up when trying to be snotty and clever became a national passtime. Everyone swarmed in and only a very few had any sort of gift for the assignment.