A snark’s snark

I’m not sure it’s legal to work in publishing and not love Dorothy Parker.  The dame’s snarkiness has inspired millions of mean rejection letters from editors so ground under by their thankless jobs that the only joy they find in their dark, miserable lives is putting their rage (at incoherent prose, ill-formed thoughts, ridiculous storylines) on their publisher’s letterhead and sending it out to agents, who take the blow for their clients.

It’s not just editors.  Ms. Parker is also the patron saint of agents who have to sift through unreadable queries (see Jim’s blog posts on this topic), spend their evenings with manuscripts so flawed you literally don’t know where to begin pointing out problems, and stare agape at vicious e-mails from authors who did not take kindly to their form letter rejection or clients who took even less kindly to their attempts at righting their sinking ships.  I think all of us here at DGLM have at one time or another crafted bitingly sarcastic, splendidly caustic, unimaginably cruel letters in response to an offensive query or manuscript.  And, then, we’ve hit “delete” and taken the high, boring, inoffensive road.

In fact, I think all intelligent readers have a bit of Dorothy Parker in them.  How often have you wanted to throw a book across the room in bitter disappointment or indulged in homicidal fantasies about a bestselling author you’re convinced was taught to write by feral monkeys?  How about when, as Jane recently mused, you plod through a book everyone has touted as the best thing since Nutella only to find that you hate, hate, hate it (The Help, anyone)?

Unfortunately, in this era of political correctness and “everybody wins” thinking, Ms. Parker’s take-no-prisoners approach to criticism is becoming obsolete.  Which is why we should treasure every snarky word and phrase…like these.

C’mon, get mean.  Share some imaginary putdowns you’d throw out about a book or author you just can’t stand.

9 Responses to A snark’s snark

  1. Stephanie says:

    Oh, I cherish her.

  2. Those with less wit and experience than Parker may not pull off snark with as much style and effectiveness. I, for one, will stay away from this difficult art.

  3. Jaclyn says:

    Hi, Miriam! Great blog entry. I’ve been following the Dystel blog for quite some time now, but this’ll be my first comment. I strongly agree with your point.

    I have yet to read The Help, but I’ve certainly heard a lot of its accolades. I, for one, had trouble getting myself to enjoy the widely worshipped Hunger Games trilogy.

    PS. Is there anywhere on this website where I could ask you agents a question about writing a novel?

  4. Thank you for giving me words of snark through which to live vicariously. Don’t get me wrong, I get my snark on–I had a rather lengthy bout of it over the phone earlier–but alas, I am too timid/polite/afraid of repercussions to put a good portion of it online. Perhaps someday I will be famous and fabulous and thus more fearless.

    Yat-Yee is right, though; it does take a certain finesse to pull off. Still, I’d much rather read attempts at it than things that are too saccharine.

  5. Miriam says:

    Yes, Dorothy Parker raised snark to an art form and she’s a hard act to follow. Jaclyn, you can e-mail me at miriam@dystel.com if you want to ask me a specific question.

  6. Deirdre Coppel says:

    You have a fabulous blog! I’m an author and illustrator and I made some awards to give to fellow bloggers whose sites I enjoy. It’s not a pass on award. This is just for you to keep. I want to award you with the Best Books Blog Award for all the hard work you do!

    Go to http://astorybookworld.blogspot.com/p/awards.html and pick up your award.

  7. Catherine Whitney says:

    This is a perfect post-earthquake, pre-hurricane topic. Most recently, I read EVERYBODY POOPS to 2 1/2 year-old Margot, and it annoyed me. There were all these animals walking around with poop dropping on the ground. Margot gave me an alarmed look and asked, “Where are their potties?” I thought this was insightful. We don’t want to encourage kids to poop where they stand, in or out of the forest. Wild animals are terrible examples when it comes to poop education.

  8. Tricia says:

    My husband and I write for the MG/YA markets and spend a lot of time reading those books. I think the most frustrating thing is when famous adult market authors write for the MG/YA markets without doing their research and still get great results. The most noteworthy of these being John Grisham. Both books he’s written for the market would never have been published if not for his name. The characters are cartoons, stero-typical and have no depth. The plots are simplistic, unrealistic and unbelievable. For example, in a child abduction case anyone who watches any crime shows on television knows that the first thing police do is track down the parents. But, not in Grisham’s book. In his world, the missing father is not a factor at all to the police. Ahhhh, but Theodore Boone knows better and, holy cow, guess who the missing girl is with…Other authors have done a much better job with similar material.

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