David Denby: Simon & Schuster Speakers Bureau

David Denby

Renowned Film Critic and Best-Selling Author

David Denby is a staff writer and film critic at The New Yorker. He is the author of the best-selling Snark, an engrossing look at the use and abuse of humor in commentary. Praised for its “wit and passion,” by the Boston Globe, this sharp and witty polemic defines snark as “the knowing nasty tone, the cheap shot,” and lays out a solid argument for distinguishing, and choosing, between snark and a loftier, more intelligent discourse.

Denby traces the history of snark through the ages, starting with its invention as personal insult in the drinking clubs of ancient Athens, tracking its development all the way to the age of the Internet, where it has become the sole purpose and style of many media, political, and celebrity Web sites. Denby takes on the snarkers, naming the nine principles of snark -- the standard techniques its practitioners use to poison their arrows. Snarkers like to think they are deploying wit, but mostly they are exposing the seethe and snarl of an unhappy country, releasing bad feeling but little laughter.

Denby has fun snarking the snarkers, expelling the bums and promoting the true wits, but he is also making a serious point: the Internet has put snark on steroids. In politics, snark means the lowest, most insinuating and insulting side can win. For the young, a savage piece of gossip could ruin a reputation and possibly a future career. And for all of us, snark just sucks the humor out of life. Denby defends the right of any of us to be cruel, but shows us how the real pros pull it off. Snark, he says, is for the amateurs.

“Snark is a teasing, rug-pulling form of insult that attempts to steal someone's mojo, erase her cool, annihilate her effectiveness, and it appeals to a knowing audience that shares the contempt of the snarker and therefore understands whatever references he makes. It's all jeer and josh, a form of bullying that, except at its highest levels, beggars the soul of humor.”

His first article for The New Yorker, “Does Homer Have Legs?,” published in 1993, grew into a book about reading the literary canon at Columbia University, Great Books: My Adventures with Homer, Rousseau, Woolf, and Other Indestructible Writers of the Western World. Two other essays in that book, on Shakespeare’s “King Lear” and on Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness,” also first appeared in The New Yorker. Recently, he has written on subjects ranging from the Scottish Enlightenment to the writers Susan Sontag and James Agee.

Before joining the magazine, Denby was the film critic for New York magazine for twenty years. His writing has also appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, The New York Review of Books, and The New Republic. In 1991, he received a National Magazine Award for his articles on high-end audio. Denby is the editor of Awake in the Dark: An Anthology of Film Criticism, 1915 to the Present, which was published in 1977. His book American Sucker, published in 2003, chronicles his misadventures in amateur investing in the midst of the dot-com boom and bust.

In his new book, Do the Movies Have a Future, Denby argues that the American film industry is at a crisis point. He discusses his belif that the American film industry is at a crisis point. He explores the strengths and weaknesses of the current film industry and weighs in on trends, genres, the digitization of film language, the viewing experience, and criticism itself. Most importantly, he reveals why the future of the movies is uncertain and what it all means for people who love the movies, who grew up watching great films, and who have been forgotten by the movie makers in recent years.

Denby has two sons and lives in New York with his wife, Susan Rieger, an associate provost at Columbia University.

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  • Snark
  • Do Movies Have a Future?

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