"This informative, gossipy, and entertaining biography traces three intersecting lives: Esther Murphy, a brilliant talker; Mercede de Acosta, a seductress who saved every scrap of memorabilia; and Madge Garland, the witty aesthete and style icon. Cohen, a professor at Wesleyan University, fully delineates the conventional biographical matters of ancestry, parents, schooling, marriages, affairs, friendships, breakups, work, and death. All We Know is a wonderful portrait of how three women made and remade themselves in a time when gender roles irrevocably shifted."
PW degays it but all three women were lesbians, despite marrying men.
Hilton Als adored it, writing on the New Yorker blog back in March:
"Like all great books, it will reverberate and eventually become essentially 'languageless' in my mind as it continues to live as a profound thing in my heart. All We Know is an intensely humbling and troubling read. Cohen’s remarkable, sui generis study about three modernist figures is, in part, about dread, which is to say failure and fear of self-exposure, and how we accommodate our lives to suit the various shadows splashed by the sun of occasional triumph.
"As a brilliant biographer, one who marries scholarship to literature in a totally unprecedented way, Cohen is of course in love with images herself. And the images that fascinate the openly gay writer have to do with those women whose queerness is part of their opera of being in a pre-Proposition world, the glamour of their subterfuge, the pathos in their efforts to cope."
Karen Long of the Plain Dealer absolutely loved it, calling Cohen's work "sophisticated, droll and astute," and concluding
"At its core, All We Know coaxes us to ponder our assumptions about failure, in its American capitalist context, and alongside the old presumption that male-centric diversions --sports -- are vital while female-centric preoccupations -- clothing and fandom and conversation -- are insipid and frivolous... This splendid biography unsettles us, as its subjects do, by disturbing 'what we think we know about the superficial and the profound.'"