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 mondeof 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.
“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?
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.
Laura Miller is currently books and culture columnist at Slate. In 1995, she co-founded Salon.com and worked there as an editor and staff writer for 20 years. Her work has appeared in the New Yorker, Harper's, the Guardian, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal and many other publications, including the New York Times Book Review, where she wrote the Last Word column for two years. She is the editor of The Salon.com Reader's Guide to Contemporary Authors (Penguin, 2000). She lives in New York.
Emily Nussbaum is the television critic for The New Yorker, and in 2016 won the Pulitzer Prize for criticism.