A Left-Handed Woman: Essays

Farrar. Dec. 2022. 432p. ISBN 9780374607166. $30. LIT
A collection of essays on literature, history, politics, gender, fashion, and art by National Book Award winner and left-handed writer (hence the title) Thurman (Cleopatra’s Nose: 39 Varieties of Desire), who has written for the New Yorker since 1987. All but two of the 39 essays in this collection were originally published in that magazine between 2007 and 2021, often to complement a book release or a retrospective. Organized in this collection by nine broad themes (e.g., marriage, maternal relations, love), Thurman’s essays explore a variety of subjects: the Chauvet Cave paintings; Dante; disappearing languages; a Bergdorf’s personal shopper. She also writes about the work of artists like Marina Abramović, Balthus, Grete Stern, and Eva Zeisel. Many essays focus on noteworthy historical women, including Helen Gurley Brown, Cleopatra, Simone de Beauvoir, Emily Dickinson, Amelia Earhart, Margaret Fuller, Vera Nabokov, and Laura Ingalls Wilder. The section devoted to fashion designers (Charles James, Ann Lowe, Guo Pei, Miuccia Prada, Elsa Schiaparelli) is especially well-researched and engaging and makes the art of couture more accessible to neophytes.
VERDICT Because of the breadth of their topics, Thurman’s well-written culture essays in this collection will appeal to many readers, particularly those interested in fashion. Highly recommended.
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