Sharp (Dean) - Book Reviews

Book Reviews
A virtue of [Dean's] book is that it shows how each woman, by wielding a pen as if it were a scalpel or a scimitar, confounded the gender norm of niceness and placed her analytical prowess front and center. Among 20th-century intellectuals, "men might have outnumbered women, demographically," Dean writes, but "in the arguably more crucial matter of producing work worth remembering, the work that defined the terms of their scene, the women were right up to par—and often beyond it."… Dean artfully shepherds the reader through the professional and personal ups and downs of each life, keeping an eye on the affinities—a taste for battle, an ethic of intellectual honesty—that made some of them allies (McCarthy and Arendt, Arendt and Adler) and drove others apart (McCarthy and Sontag, Adler and Kael).
Laura Jacobs - New York Times Book Review

[A]n entertaining and erudite cultural history of selected female thinkers who "came up in a world that was not eager to hear women’s opinions about anything." Indeed, Ms. Dean herself performs the work of a public intellectual by doing justice to the substance of her subjects’ work, while also conveying―through her own wit and lively opinions―why their work matters.
Maureen Corrigan - Wall Street Journal

[A] timely new book.… Dean deftly and often elegantly traces these women’s arguments about race, politics and gender.… The book is consistently entertaining and often truly provocative―especially for anyone who makes or loves art or literature.… [U]rgent in its own right.
Kate Tuttle - Los Angeles Times

Sharp is a dinner party you want to be at.… Dean’s literary bash is as stimulating and insightful as its roster of guests. She not only encapsulates their biographies and achievements with remarkable concision, but also connects the dots between them.… Sharp is a wonderful celebration of some truly gutsy, brilliant women.
Heller McAlpin - NPR

In a happy case of it takes one to know one, Michelle Dean has delivered a penetrating book about penetrating American writers.… Drawing on close readings of their works and other sources, Dean succinctly charts how these women broke into public discourse and how they were viewed and received . . . Dean serves one incisive sentence after another.
Jim Higgins - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

A sagacious, stylish survey of 10 female essayists, critics, scholars and memoirists.… Not just a tribute to 10 remarkable women but to virtues that all writers―male and female alike―can aspire to: toughness, tenacity and clear-headed thinking.
Peter Tonguette - Columbus Dispatch

(Starred review.) Few readers could fail to be impressed by both the research behind and readability of this first book by Dean…. The book has a few glitches.… Taken as a whole, however, this is a stunning…introduction to a group of important writers.
Publishers Weekly

What distinguishes all of these writers, in Dean’s telling, are traits encapsulated by the title adjective: wit, verbal precision, and a kind of polemical fearlessness that made all ten women stand out in a culture very much dominated by men.
Library Journal

[A] uniquely intellectual slant to the current renaissance in women’s historys.… With the word ferocity appearing with satisfying frequency, Dean presents shrewd, discerning, fresh, and crisply composed interpretations of… transformative thinkers. —Donna Seaman

…20th-century women whose lives had a deep impact on culture.… [E]ngaging 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 Reviews

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