David Denby

In a Media Saturated World We Have Become Dwellers In a Permanent Spectacle -- A Giant Circus


David Denby (born 1943)

is an American journalist, best known as a film critic for The New Yorker magazine.

Early life and Education

Denby grew up in New York City. He received a B.A. from Columbia University in 1965, and a master's degree from its journalism school in 1966.



In a modern corporate state, good and evil may not be clear, and many people wander around in a fog of compromise, torn between ambition and guilt.

David Denby
In a December 20, 1982 review of the 1982 film The Verdictdirected by Sidney Lumet.

Denby began writing film criticism while a graduate student at Stanford University's Department of Communication. He began his professional life in the early 1970s as an adherent of the film critic Pauline Kael—one of a group of film writers informally, and sometimes derisively, known as "the Paulettes." Denby wrote for The Atlantic and New York before arriving at The New Yorker in the middle 1990s; at present, Denby splits his film duties with Anthony Lane, trading off week-by-week. The schedule allows both writers to explore a broad range of critical topics in the body of the magazine.


Denby's Great Books (1996) is a non-fiction account of the Western canon-oriented Core Curriculum at his alma mater,Columbia University. Denby reenrolled after three decades, and the book operates as a kind of double portrait, as well as a sort of great-thinkers brush-up.[citation needed] In The New York Times, the writer Joyce Carol Oates called the book "a lively adventure of the mind," filled with "unqualified enthusiasm."Great Books was a New York Times bestseller. In The Modern Mind: An Intellectual History of the 20th centuryPeter Watson called "Great Books" the "most original response to the culture wars." The book has been published in 13 foreign editions.

In 2004, Denby published American Sucker, a memoir which details his investment misadventures in the dot-com stock market bubble, along with his own bust years as a divorcé from writer Cathleen Schine, leading to a major reassessment of his life. Allan Sloan in the New York Times called the author "formidably smart," while noting this paradox: "Mr. Denby is even smart enough to realize how paradoxical it is that he not only has a good, prestigious job, but that he is also in a position to make money by relating how he lost money in the stock market."

Snark, Denby's latest book, is a polemical dissection of public speech.

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