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In Sontag’s case, I also found a letter from Philip Roth that I liked.
I was researching in a totally thematic way, so it wasn’t nearly as interesting of an archive journey as it could’ve been.
Michelle Dean: It is actually chronologically told.
In my original conception of the book, I was going to be very strict in chronology and keep switching from one woman to the next. The book is weighted towards the beginning of careers as opposed to the end, and it cuts off by the '90s, so I’m mostly looking at things on paper.
Well, I’m a weirdo that doesn’t actually annotate books.
I think a lot of working writers will appreciate reading about the financial lives of these women—especially learning about projects that made them little or no money and the impact it had on their lives (Pauline Kael wrote criticism for Berkeley’s Cinema Guild flyers for no money, and then sued her ex-husband for back wages and profits).
And then, conversely, how someone like Nora Ephron’s career changed forever when Heartburn became a bestseller, and then again, when she wrote the screenplay for the film version.
Amusing marginalia, letters of correspondence, and biographical information coalesce to reveal elements of their intimate relationships, writing practices, and deep-seated preoccupations.
Sharp is peppered with excerpts from now-shuttered publications like The Partisan Review, Life Magazine, and Ms.