Snark vs Smarm
Don't trust anyone who says snark is useless, that bad reviews serve no purpose. The purpose of a bad review, of snark, of sarcasm is to attack false sincerity, false authority--to attack smarm.
It is reacting to smarm.
What is smarm, exactly? Smarm is a kind of performance—an assumption of the forms of seriousness, of virtue, of constructiveness, without the substance. Smarm is concerned with appropriateness and with tone. Smarm disapproves.
Smarm would rather talk about anything other than smarm. Why, smarm asks, can't everyone just be nicer?
The most significant explicator of the niceness rule—the loudest Thumper of all, the true prophetic voice of anti-negativity—is neither the cartoon rabbit nor the publicists' group nor Julavits, nor even David Denby. It is The Believer's founder and impresario, Dave Eggers. If there is a defining document of contemporary literary smarm, it is an interview Eggers did via email with the Harvard Advocate in 2000, in which a college student had the poor manners to ask the literary celebrity about "selling out."
In reply to the question, Eggers told the Advocate that yes, he was what people call a sellout, that he had been paid $12,000 for a single magazine article, that he had taken the chance to hang out with Puffy, and that he had said yes to all these opportunities because "No is for pussies."
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