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Comments: Week of January 19, 2009

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1. “This was an excellent article,” wrote one reader in response to Adam Sternbergh’s defense of snark and critique of David Denby’s book about it (“Culture Pages: Snark Attack,” January 5). “This article was terrible,” wrote another. And that’s how the debate went, ping-ponging from one extreme to the other. It’s a phenomenon we’ve noticed many times before in the “Comments” section of nymag.com, and it stands to reason: If people have mixed and/or nuanced feelings about a subject, they tend not to record those feelings. And thus we are left to deal with the hard-core polemicists, who, in this case, trotted out arguments they seemed to have made many times before. Detractors of the review tended to share two ideas: that snark is a generational defect—“a stage of adolescence that a big part of our society is stuck in”—and that previous historical periods were just as “awash in bullshit” as our own and that there is therefore no excuse for snark as a “defense mechanism.” Our own film critic David Edelstein also posted a comment on behalf of Denby, who served for many years as the film critic here: “This is a very thoughtful and intelligent pan and makes some good points, but a) Denby values nonabusive discourse—yes, he went to Columbia in the sixties—and there is something poignant about that nostalgia and something worth preserving in its lack of snark (as opposed to real wit), and b) Denby was the film critic for New York Magazine for two decades. He wrote brilliantly. He should not be raked over the coals here, and certainly not without an acknowledgment of what he gave to this magazine.”


2. According to the response to My Laid-Off Life (January 5), our look at seven unemployed New Yorkers, being thrown out of work does not guarantee sympathy. “Is the reader supposed to feel compassion for these self-absorbed, materialistic morons?” asked one who evidently did not. “I read stories in the news of people who are homeless, who don’t have money to buy food or medication, and these jerks are complaining because they can’t shop at Saks?” Many respondents agreed that at least a few of the group sounded like “privileged whiners” and at least one offered job-seeking advice: “It’s high time for these spoiled brats to do what the rest of us did after graduating at the top of our class from an Ivy League school in the early nineties and not finding a job: shut up and start waiting tables.” But it was not all anger and resentment. There were also many who were impressed and even inspired by the candor of the subjects. “I was laid off back at the end of November and have struggled every day to muster the energy to remain positive and optimistic that things will turn around,” wrote a reader. “Reading each personal story, I finally was able to feel that I was not alone in this situation. I was able to relate to at least some aspect of what they were saying. Some gave me hope and reminded me that we will get through this and that I need to still remain optimistic regardless of how bad I may feel about myself.”

3. Let’s stick with the warm and fuzzy vibe. Nymag.com’s reporting that Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick were among those taken in by the greatest Ponzi scheme ever (“Daily Intel: Madoff’s Latest Victims,” December 30) elicited an outpouring of nothing but love and support for the husband-and-wife team. “You know, I’m usually the first to say something like ‘Eff the rich, it’s the poor who are really suffering during this.’ But dude, something about this makes me really, really sad. I guess it’s just seeing two seemingly decent, really nice people, who worked hard and earned an honest living, have it all taken away from them. That is just a big bummer, man.”

4. One last thing, sorry if it spoils the mood. In response to David Amsden’s story about MTV’s The City (Run for the Hills,” January 5), the spinoff of the popular reality show The Hills, reader S. J. Estes lashed out: “I read about The Hills in your magazine and decided to give it a try. Good God! I’ve seen shows where the actors’ IQs don’t add up to three digits, but these people’s don’t multiply to a hundred. And there’s this weasel, Spencer. I’d love to slap the stuffing out of this little twit.”

Please send e-mails to: comments@nymag.com


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