About the Book
Dorothy Parker, Rebecca West, Hannah Arendt, Mary McCarthy, Susan Sontag, Pauline Kael, Joan Didion, Nora Ephron, Renata Adler, and Janet Malcolm—these brilliant women are the central figures of Sharp. Their lives intertwine as they cut through the cultural and intellectual history of America in the twentieth century, arguing as fervently with each other as they did with the sexist attitudes of the men who often undervalued their work as critics and essayists. These women are united by what Dean terms as “sharpness,” the ability to cut to the quick with precision of thought and wit, a claiming of power through writing rather than position. Sharp is a vibrant and rich depiction of the intellectual beau monde of twentieth-century New York, where gossip-filled parties at night gave out to literary slanging-matches in the pages of the Partisan Review or the New York Review of Books as well as a considered portrayal of how these women came to be so influential in a climate where women were treated with derision by the critical establishment.
Mixing biography, literary criticism, and cultural history, Sharp is an enthralling exploration of how a group of brilliant women became central figures in the world of letters despite the many obstacles facing them, a testament to how anyone not in a position of power can claim the mantle of writer and, perhaps, help change the world.
Advance praise for Sharp:
“There can’t be enough cultural histories which make the point that a woman intellectual must represent her own mind, and not the collective mind of all her ‘sisters.’ Sharp is a brisk, entertaining, well-researched reminder that it’s impossible to write—or think—without making life very messy for oneself, but to do so is an achievement well worth the pains.” —Sheila Heti, author of How Should A Person Be?
From the women of Sharp:
“What is accepted by most women as a flattering idealization of their sex is a way of making women feel inferior to what they actually are—or normally grow to be. For the ideal of beauty is administered as a form of self-oppression.” —Susan Sontag
“It would never have crossed my mind to object or to say, ‘You’re going to turn out to be wrong about me.’ It was a given in those days that if you were a woman and you wanted to do certain things, you were going to have to be the exception to the rule.” —Nora Ephron
“To put it very simply, I have always done what I liked to do.” —Hannah Arendt