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Kathryn HarrisonThe essays collected in Cleopatra's Nose, whose 39 subjects Thurman classifies as "varieties of desire," are their author's attempts, "through a feat of style," to "prove my existence to intelligent skeptics, none more skeptical than I am." As readers of Thurman's much-praised biographies of Isak Dinesen and Colette might guess, she has succeeded. Blessed with intellectual curiosity, a sharp wit and an unwillingness to receive opinions, Judith Thurman seems unlikely to produce anything less than a feat of style. Not all of these essays (published, with the exception of one, by The New Yorker between 1987 and 2007) are long, consequential or fully realized—a few, shorter and less incisive, can fairly be called musings—but as a collection of cultural criticism they are…plenty good enough to preserve for posterity: they make an excellent book…Lesser critics do postmortems; Thurman is a master of vivisection. When she's done with a subject, it's still living, mystery intact.
—The New York Times