Sharp by Michelle Dean


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 ...

Details Sharp

Release DateApr 10th, 2018
PublisherGrove Press
GenreNonfiction, Feminism, History, Biography, Womens, Biography Memoir

Reviews Sharp

  • Paul Bryant
    Mary McCarthy saw Susan Sontag at a party, where else, and said to her“I hear you’re the new me.”****This account of the careers of Dorothy Parker, Hannah Arendt, Mary McCarthy, Susan Sontag, Pauline Kael, Joan Didion, Nora Ephron, Renata Adler and Janet Malcolm with walk-on parts for Rebecca West and Zora Neale Hurston was kinda interesting and I must also confess kinda just a little bit boring too.I have read biographies of three of them ...
  • Tess
    Gobbled this book up in a few sittings. Loved reading more about women I already admired, and learning a lot about a few I didn't know much about. A beautifully written and well researched book.
  • Samantha
    What a disappointment. This is a book about women who built careers on criticism, yet does very little to really, truly delve into the minefield of what it means to be a person whose very existence is “critical” (Living While Female) while turning the mirror around on the societies that deemed them critical in the first place. The writing is light and easy to absorb, and the women discussed are interesting figures, which makes it all the more...
  • Kate Klassa
    Sharp is an exceptionally well written exploration of some of the most influential women writers of the last century. Almost every chapter explores a different woman's writing, giving details of their childhood and adolescent years as well as the intimate details of their writing careers. Dean differentiates this book from other collections of short biographies through two methods:(1) She considers the writers' impacts on each other, rather than ...
  • Marissa
    Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing this book in exchange for an honest review.A recent trend in nonfiction revolves around anthologies of great women. Across ages and genres, notable women of the past are being highlighted in collections of their lives and works. When I saw the cover for SHARP, I knew immediately I wanted to read about its female writers and intellectuals, some familiar and others less familiar to me. I really...
  • Laura
    From BBC Radio 4 - Book of the week:As part of the Algonquin Round Table, Dorothy Parker established her reputation as one of the most brilliant wits in New York and came to epitomize the liberated woman of the 1920s.Mary McCarthyAs both a novelist and a critic McCarthy was noted for bitingly satiric commentaries on marriage, sexual expression and the role of women in contemporary urban America.Susan SontagSusan Sontag was a brilliant essayist - ...
  • Rebecca Foster
    (2.5) “People have trouble with women who aren’t ‘nice,’ … who have the courage to sometimes be wrong in public.” In compiling 10 mini-biographies of twentieth-century women writers and cultural critics who weren’t afraid to be unpopular, Dean (herself a literary critic) celebrates their feminist achievements and insists “even now … we still need more women like this.” Her subjects include Rebecca West, Mary McCarthy, Susan So...
  • Mandy
    Enormously enjoyable and informative group biography of women who never shrank from voicing their opinions at a time when women were rarely encouraged to do so. From Hannah Arendt to Dorothy Parker, Rebecca West to Susan Sontag, the book covers a lot of ground and is an excellent introduction to these always interesting and often controversial women. Highly recommended.
  • Megan Abbott
    An outstanding, must-read book--lovers of Didion, Sontag, Dorothy Parker or all the other brilliant women explored here: this is for you. A gift to the discussion of 20th-century arts and letters. And a lovesong to smart women.
  • Ben
    I loved the profiles of each of the women and how they made their mark on criticism and essaying. That said, I wish that they had covered a group that was a little more diverse (Zora Neale Hurston is the only author of color mentioned, and she has to share a chapter) and that a little less of the focus was spent on trying to show how all of these women interconnected and influenced one another - sometimes they really didn't, other than writing in...
  • Mara
    This wasn't precisely what I had expected, but seeing as this turns out to be an intellectual history of notable 20th century female public thinkers, I was quite happy with what I got. Michelle Dean has a real talent for picking choice quotes and events from her subjects, and I was delighted that she takes us through how these brilliant women were socially and professionally collected. This book made me want to drop everything and pick up all the...
  • Sarah Perchikoff
    Before reading Sharp by Michelle Dean, I wasn't under the impression that the women in this book were going to become some kind of role models for me, but I guess I expected them to be a little more together, maybe a little less petty. Now, don't get me wrong, I love some petty. Especially nowadays, petty can get you through the day, but I guess I was expecting more elegance from these women who were such trailblazers in their day. They chea...
  • Claudia Tessier
    An interesting exploration of 10 "sharp" women of the 20th century, all writers and feminist influencers in one way or another. The author does an excellent job of not only discussing each woman but also demonstrating links among them. Of value in relation to understanding each woman and the world in which she confronted herself, her admirers, her critics, her obstacles, and how each used her literary style to influence society and survive.
  • Christine Henneberg
    1 star (audio version)--with the caveat that I read only about 3/4 of the book. I found these essays on smart and opinionated ("sharp") women writers to be dry and unimaginative. The writer's own voice was completely missing; I didn't know why she cared (or wasn't convince that she did care) about these women, and I found myself not caring, either. I will also say that she offers an almost offensively inadequate explanation for the homogeneity of...
  • Victoria Sadler
    Loved this. Sharp by Michelle Dean gives insights into the lives and work of some of the 20th century’s most influential women writers. Dorothy Parker, Rebecca West, Hannah Arendt, Mary McCarthy, Susan Sontag, Pauline Kael, Joan Didion Nora Ephron Renata Adler & Janet Malcolm...It doesn’t deify these women at all. Michelle really examines their politics and outlook, but also considers the context of their work.
  • Brenda
    If this book does nothing more than get the next generations reading its subjects, it will have done enough. But it does a whole lot more. Michelle Dean is a treasure. Here, she gives us chewy, arguable opinions and rigorous research. I’m jealous of the deep reading she did for this. History and criticism in a selective history of criticism. Delicious.
  • Kristina Reads - Books. Blogs. Memes.
    Honestly, this just felt like reading a textbook.
  • Jill Elizabeth
    I am fascinated by the "early" woman thinkers - those women who developed a reputation for intellectual rigor and originality in a time (the early 1900s) when such domains were considered the exclusive property of men. I was familiar with nearly all of the phenomenally talented women in this collection - some more than others - but had no idea of the details of most of their lives, and was fascinated to see how the developed intellectually, creat...
  • Maggie Tiede
    Sharp: The Women Who Made an Art of Having an Opinion is a biography-cum-reckoning about the legacy of ten extraordinary women: Dorothy Parker, Rebecca West, Hannah Arendt, Mary McCarthy, Nora Ephron, Susan Sontag, Renata Adler, Joan Didion, Janet Malcolm, and Zora Neale Hurston. Occasionally Michelle Dean gets off zingers every bit as cool and cutting as those of her subjects, but usually her writing style is warm and nuanced, making Sharp feel ...
  • Nanette
    A who’s who of NYC white female 20th century writers & their foibles, especially romantic ones. Anyone of color is snubbed. Men are still the movers & shakers—the women are allowed to enter their orbit, or so it would seem from the narrative. This is NOT a scholarly book nor does it seem to have been either thought through or edited very deeply. The last paragraph had me writing “HUH?!” next to it as it was a sexist summation and prescrip...
  • Rachel
    This is a gossipy and sensationalized view of the intimacies of notable women writers of the 20th century under the guise of being a serious study of their professional achievements. Admittedly, it is hard to put down--like a bag of chips you know are not good for you. Michelle Dean's genius is subtle titillation coupled with faux innocence of the salacious nature of her expose. Perhaps her goal is to imitate the "sharp" women she profiles, but t...
  • Pat Carroll
    From the days when argument mattered, this is a thoughtful, thoroughly reported survey of ten public intellectuals connected by their chromosomes and the ability to write well. Michelle Dean does a little too much linking for me, but the links are there and make a decent organizing principle. While I was reading this, I also came upon a couple columns by NYT right-wing guy Ross Douthat that made me realize how little dispute we have over complexi...
  • Gina
    I would give this book 4.5 stars if that were possible. I really enjoyed it. If you're looking for a brief but beautifully researched overview of the interconnected lives and works of Dorothy Parker, Rebecca West, Mary McCarthy, Hannah Arendt, Susan Sontag, Joan Didion, Janet Malcolm, Renata Adler, Pauline Kael, and Nora Ephron -- and who isn't? -- grab this book.
  • Natalie Daher
    A meticulously researched overview of the women who shaped twentieth century public arguments. In a society still averse to outspoken women, this book holds a mirror to a world today's women writers likely wish existed.
  • Jennifer Burk
    I really wanted to like this book. It’s thoroughly researched but ultimately boring.
  • Bayneeta
    Only really knew and read four of the women covered here: Dorothy Parker, Mary McCarthy, Joan Didion, and Nora Ephron. The other six were familiar names, but aside from Pauline Kael, I was pretty clueless. But I found it an interesting, well-researched book with more than forty pages of notes and index.
  • Rhiannon Johnson
    *Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. No additional compensation was received*Please read this review on my blog: A great compilation of admirable and witty women! Each of the book's chapters focus on one of 10 sharp women (listed above) and the chapters build on one another through the women's relationships to each other--almost a "six degrees of separation" typ...
  • Christen
    Conflicted is how I feel about this book. I enjoyed reading about Dorothy Parker; I had a hard time with the other writers. Perhaps it is because the author went to the pettiness and the criticism of each of the females authors had with each other. She threw in a good measure included the criticism of the women by men who were also critics as well. I guess a book about women writers who were critics would be full of criticisms, but it felt like j...