Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press


by Michelle Dean

From celebrated literary critic Michelle Dean, a powerful portrait of ten women writers who managed to make their voices heard amid a culture of sexism

  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Page Count 384
  • Publication Date April 10, 2018
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2509-5
  • Dimensions 6" x 9"
  • US List Price $26.00
  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Publication Date April 10, 2018
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-6571-8
  • US List Price $26.00

About the Book

The ten brilliant women who are the focus of Sharp came from different backgrounds and had vastly divergent political and artistic opinions. But they all made a significant contribution to the cultural and intellectual history of America and ultimately changed the course of the twentieth century, in spite of the men who often undervalued or dismissed their work.

These ten women—Dorothy Parker, Rebecca West, Hannah Arendt, Mary McCarthy, Susan Sontag, Pauline Kael, Joan Didion, Nora Ephron, Renata Adler, and Janet Malcolm—are united by what Dean calls “sharpness,” the ability to cut to the quick with precision of thought and wit. Sharp is a vibrant depiction of the intellectual beau monde of twentieth-century New York, where gossip-filled parties at night gave out to literary slugging-matches in the pages of the Partisan Review or the New York Review of Books. It is also a passionate portrayal of how these women asserted themselves through their writing in a climate where women were treated with extreme condescension by the male-dominated cultural establishment.

Mixing biography, literary criticism, and cultural history, Sharp is a celebration of this group of extraordinary women, an engaging introduction to their works, and a testament to how anyone who feels powerless can claim the mantle of writer, and, perhaps, change the world.

Advance Praise for Sharp

“I have to recommend Michelle Dean’s Sharp: The Women Who Made an Art of Having an Opinion, a delicious cultural history that comes out in April. It brings together some of the most influential social critics of the 20th century, including Dorothy Parker, Mary McCarthy, Hannah Arendt, Susan Sontag and Joan Didion, and shows how these glamorous iconoclasts forged their singular careers. Dean makes the convincing argument that women’s voices—if not necessarily feminist ones—did far more to define the last century’s intellectual life than we realize.”—Michelle Goldberg, New York Times

“Few readers could fail to be impressed by both the research behind and readability of this first book by Dean . . . [A] stunning and highly accessible introduction to a group of important writers.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“[H]owever different these women may have been from each other, the author ably explains the ways in which their lives intersected, the conversations they had, and the goals they shared . . . engaging portraits of brilliant minds.”—Kirkus Reviews

“This is such a great idea for a book, and Michelle Dean carries it off, showing us the complexities of her fascinating, extraordinary subjects, in print and out in the world. Dean writes with vigor, depth, knowledge and absorption, and as a result Sharp is a real achievement.”—Meg Wolitzer, New York Times-bestselling author of The Interestings and The Female Persuasion

“Michelle Dean has delivered an exquisite examination—both rigorous and compassionate—of what it has meant to be a woman with a public voice and the power to use it critically. This book is ferociously good.”—Rebecca Traister, New York Times-bestselling author of All the Single Ladies

“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?

“An elegant, incisive, and richly detailed account of the lives of ten extraordinary women. I didn’t realize how badly I wanted a book on exactly this subject until I started reading it. Sharp is not simply a collection of distinct biographical essays, but a vital composite portrait of the intellectual life of twentieth-century America. It’s also a lot more fun to read than a deeply researched study of a group of intellectuals has any business being. A necessary book by a wonderful writer.”—Mark O’Connell, author of To Be a Machine

“An insightful look at some of the wisest and most influential women writers . . . engaging, empowering, and insightful.”—Apartment Therapy

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


Named One of the Best Nonfiction Books of 2018 (So Far) by Esquire
Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2018 by Esquire, the Guardian, the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, The Rumpus, Elle, the Millions, Southern Living, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Boston Globe, Publishers Weekly, and Book Riot

Author Tour Dates



New York, NY


with Laura Miller and Emily Nussbaum

52 Prince Street

7:00 PM


Los Angeles, CA


with Carina Chocano

1818 N Vermont Ave

5:00 PM


San Francisco, CA


We Can Do It: Opinionated Women

The Brower Center

Goldman Theater

2150 Allston Way, Suite 100

1:30 PM


Los Angeles, CA


Badass Women Changing Culture, Conversation 2052

University of Southern California

Salvatori Computer Science Center 101, Signing Area 4


12:00 PM