Sharp: Book summary and reviews of Sharp by Michelle Dean

Sharp

by Michelle Dean

Sharp by Michelle Dean X
Sharp by Michelle Dean
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Book Summary

A vibrant and rich depiction of the intellectual beau monde of twentieth-century New York.

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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. [A] stunning and highly accessible introduction to a group of important writers." - Publishers Weekly

"[T]he author presents engaging portraits of brilliant minds. A useful take on significant writers "'in a world that was not eager to hear women's opinions about anything.'" - Kirkus

"Dean's title is engaging and well written, but one cannot help but wish that more women of color had received attention. With that in mind, this work may be of interest to readers who enjoy biography, literary criticism, and women's or cultural history." - Library Journal

"A delicious cultural history that comes out in April. It brings together some of the most influential social critics of the 20th century ... 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." - New York Times

"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

"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 ... A necessary book by a wonderful writer." - Mark O'Connell, author of To Be a Machine

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Author Information

Michelle Dean

Michelle Dean is a journalist, critic, and the recipient of the National Book Critics Circle's 2016 Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing. A contributing editor at the New Republic, she has written for the New Yorker, Nation, New York Times Magazine, Slate, New York Magazine, Elle, Harper's, and BuzzFeed. She lives in Los Angeles.

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