I am a very indecisive person. It's the Virgo in me—I will go back and forth 1000 times about something I've already debated for hours in my head. But there are two things I can decide instantly on, and that is books and wine. (The only real struggle comes with trying to reign myself in from buying too much of both.)
I instantly knew I'd love Michelle Dean's new book, Sharp: The Women Who Made An Art of Having An Opinion. I mean, look at that title! What wouldn't I love about it? A compilation of histories of eleven whip-smart women, most writers, all large personalities, who came to fame (if not fortune or favor) by speaking their minds—something women were not really allowed or supposed to do until 50 or so years ago. (And that some trolls in dark corners of the Internet will argue women still aren't supposed to do.)
In 30-page or so chapters, Dean tells of the lives and work of Dorothy Parker, Rebecca West, Hannah Arendt, Mary McCarthy, Susan Sontag, Pauline Kael, Joan Didion, Nora Ephron, Renata Adler, Janet Malcolm, and Zora Neale Hurston. "I gathered the women in this book under the sign of a compliment that every one of them received in their lives: they were called sharp,” Dean writes in the introduction, and goes on to demonstrate how their wit, fervor, and passions made them titans of the written word. Not too in-depth but fairly comprehensive, and very illuminating and interesting, each chapter brought me a little closer to understanding the deep legacy of women writers in this country, which is often overlooked—too often, men are the ones labeled 'great' and 'genius' and given a place in history. Dean does a great job of picking out gems to garnish the biographies; there are stories of affairs—Rebecca West's turbulent trysts with Orson Welles—and of influence—West and Hurston, Arendt and McCarthy. It's a thick book, but it's not a heavy read. I've been enjoying going slow, chapter by chapter here and there, working my way through this canon of women I'm a little ashamed to say I didn't know a ton about collectively until now.
Pairing with a book named "Sharp" means you need something, well, appropriately pointed. When browsing a wine store near my apartment that I hadn't visited lately, the shop manager, knowing my affinity for dry, acidic whites, directed me towards the Karas White Blend. "Very dry, very crisp," he said. On a warm spring day, that was maybe all I needed to hear. That it was from Armenia was a double bonus; I've been researching Armenian wines of late, after learning that the Caucaus mountain region of modern-day Armenia is believed to be the historic home of all wine making. (Notice that name—it's where Caucasian comes from, though the regions people probably were not white.) I was instantly sold.
Thankfully, my impulse was right. I did like this wine. And it is sharp, but not too sharp, thanks to Chardonnay, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc grapes that give it a burst of "green" flavors: Lime, green apple, green almond, pear. A tart citrus bomb but with a sweet nose, like sniffing a puckering hard candy before popping it in your mouth. This wine has OPINIONS. It's not going to let you just sit down and mellow out. It's no throwback, throwaway white. It will make its presence known—hello, you are drinking a descendent of wine history!! I was pleased to find I liked savoring it as much as the book—after being open for a day or so, the tartness mellowed out a bit, making it softer, yet still citrus-y crisp.
A pleasantly acidic bottle for a book of acerbic wit—two things I will always get behind.
Book: Sharp: The Women Who Made An Art of Having An Opinion by Michelle Dean/
Bottle: Tierras de Armenia Karas White Wine 2016, purchased at The Bottle Shoppe.