Sacred Snark

The Believer is a new journal dedicated to the proposition that “snark” must be rooted out from criticism in the popular press. Since The Believer launched a year ago, there has been much discussion about just what constitutes snark — mean-spiritedness? Negative hyperbole? Irony? Probably all of the above, suspects The Revealer, and we wouldn’t want to live without some snark in our book reviews. An absence of snark is like an interfaith meeting in which a priest, a rabbi, and a duck all pretend they’re the same under the skin. So here’s to snark, and this particularly vicious example from The San Francisco Chronicle, a review of bestselling author David Guterson’s new novel by Carol Doup Miller, in which she calls Our Lady of the Forest “such a raggedy piece of fiction and such a mingy exploration of religious faith that everyone can leave it feeling suckered.” Miller identifies the trend which Guterson has grabbed hold of — Catholicism as plot device — and explains why he gives it a bad name. Substitute any major paper’s confused coverage of the Church’s sex problems for Guterson’s novel, and Miller’s review is a short, sharp, and smart take on the pitfalls of writing about religion.

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