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women's studies

All We Know: Three Lives

Lisa Cohen.
Publisher FSG  
Format hardcover
Product Dimensions 9.25 x 6.25 x 1.35 inches
ISBN 9780374176495
Pages/Publication Date 429/2012
Daedalus Item Code 54477
This item is not available.
(A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2012) Esther Murphy was a brilliant New York intellectual who dazzled friends and strangers with an unstoppable flow of conversation. But she never finished the books she was contracted to write—a painful failure and yet a kind of achievement. The quintessential fan, Mercedes de Acosta had intimate friendships with the legendary actresses and dancers of the twentieth century. Her ephemeral legacy lies in the thousands of objects she collected to preserve the memory of those performers and to honor the feelings they inspired. An icon of haute couture and a fashion editor of British Vogue, Madge Garland held bracing views on dress that drew on her feminism, her ideas about modernity, and her love of women. Existing both vividly and invisibly at the center of cultural life, she—like Murphy and de Acosta—is now almost completely forgotten. In this book, Lisa Cohen describes these women's glamorous choices, complicated failures, and controversial personal lives with lyricism and empathy. Both a series of biographical portraits and an investigation into style, celebrity, sexuality, and the genre of biography itself, Cohen's book explores a hidden history of modernism and pays tribute to three compelling lives.

"In her deeply researched, incisive, and scintillating first book, Cohen presents a triptych of brief lives portraying now forgotten but nonetheless singular women whose intelligence, passion, creativity, daring, and charisma were shaping forces in modern culture.... Cohen's astute, graceful, and far-reaching profiles not only acquaint us with three extraordinary, innovative, and influential women who rejected gender expectations but also illuminate the essential visions and voices 20th-century lesbians and gays brought to evolving modernity."—Booklist (starred review)

"Meticulously researched and compulsively readable ... [Cohen's] treatment of these larger-than-life and, often, destructive figures is coolly appreciative; though unflinching in her analysis of their failings, she is never judgmental.... Cohen's account of the paradoxes of history and temporality is as notable for its light touch as it is for its subtlety and depth. A monument to great achievement as well as to incompleteness, All We Know does justice to both the distortions and the truths of these three lives.... In her attention to the multiple connections between her major figures and to the shaping influence of informal social worlds, Cohen has written something larger and more ambitious: All We Know is the story of a milieu as much as it is an account of individual lives, and a remarkably subtle and thoughtful treatment of sexual desire, identity, and the cruelty of history."—LAReview of Books

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