Heidi Julavits, the 35-year-old co-editor of The Believer , the new Dave Eggers–sponsored literary magazine, arrived for her interview dressed in a style that might be called haute zoologist: angular tortoise-shell glasses, khaki zip-front jacket over a white polo shirt, and a denim skirt. And on Friday, May 2, Ms.Julavits acted like she was stepping into a cage with a dangerous beast.
"I definitely felt that by agreeing to do this, I was putting my head in the lion’s mouth," said Ms. Julavits with a nervous laugh-and all her laughs were nervous-as she nursed a Coca-Cola at Sebastian Junger’s bar, Half King, on 23rd Street. Ms. Julavits was self-conscious because she recently named The Observer one of the "laboratories" of a nefarious "disorder": "I call it Snark," she wrote in an essay of some 10,000 words, "The Snarky, Dumbed-Down World of Book Reviewing," which appeared in The Believer ‘s premiere issue in March . In it, she earnestly chides the literary-industrial complex of book reviewers for succumbing to a "hostile, knowing, bitter tone of contempt" that is suffocating the creative lives of the literati."
Snark: exhibiting the lowest levels of anti-intellectualism or an admirable passion for literature? I’m examining this question in an essay on negative criticism currently under construction .