The Women Who Made An Art of Having An Opinion

Book - 2018
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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.

Publisher: New York : Grove Press, 2018
Edition: First edition, First Grove Atlantic hardcover edition
Copyright Date: ©2018
ISBN: 9780802125095
Branch Call Number: 810.99287 D345S 2018
Characteristics: xiii, 362 pages ; 24 cm


From Library Staff

Dean profiles ten witty women, heirs to Nora Helmer, including Dorothy Parker, Hannah Arendt, Mary McCarthy, Joan Didion and Nora Ephron.

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Apr 05, 2019


Sep 10, 2018

I found this collection of biographical sketches of "sharp" women disappointing. The author chose women of mostly a similar class and ethnic background. Perhaps due to the shortness of the sketches (about 30 pages), it became difficult to distinguish amongst them. As well, the author ignored the dialectic between their context and their "sharpness". Were their opinions controversial because of their beliefs or did the situation of being the only woman in a male setting cause their "sharpness"? Finally, I found that the author was unable to address or deal with these women's attitudes to feminism.

Jul 16, 2018

Not sure what made me pick up this book about women writers and essayists, a couple of whom I have read and all but one I had heard of. The author connects their stories at the end of each chapter, which adds to the insider feel of the book. Many of these writers knew each other and it seems they all wrote for the same handful of east coast publications. The upshot for me is that I know about writers I knew only by name, but I can't say I'm inspired to track down their books and read them. There's a strong "long ago and far away" quality to their stories as presented in this book.

EverythingTouches Jul 05, 2018

I valued its usefulness as an introduction in learning about some of the more notable women opinion writers. However, the writing style felt “matter of fact”. Though I became more informed about each, it didn’t leave me feeling admiration or passion for their contributions. It needed a last chapter tying it all together from the author’s point of view. Without that, the book was a series of isolated descriptions and events that lacked cohesion.


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