Cleopatra's Nose

39 Varieties of Desire

Judith Thurman

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Cleopatra's Nose is an exuberant gathering of essays and profiles representing twenty years of Judith Thurman's celebrated writing, particularly her fascination with human vanity, femininity, and "women's work"--from haute couture to literature to commanding empires. The subjects are iconic (Jackie, the Brontës, Toni Morrison, Anne Frank) and multifarious (tofu and performance art, pornography and platform shoes, kimonos and bulimia); all inspire dazzling displays of craft, wit, penetration, and intelligence.  Here we find explorations of voracity: hunger for sex, food, experience, and transcendence; see how writers from Flaubert to Nadine Gordimer have engaged with history; meet eminent Victorians and the greats of fashion. Whether reporting on hairstyles, strolling the halls of power, or deftly unpacking novels and their writers, Thurman never fails to provoke, inspire, captivate, and enlighten. Cleopatra's Nose is an embarrassment of riches from one of our great literary journalists.


Read an Excerpt


The Wolf at the Door

The Italian performance artist Vanessa Beecroft lives with her American husband, Greg Durkin, and their seventeen-month-old son, Dean, in an isolated house off a dirt road on Long Island’s North Shore. Durkin, who has worked in the movie industry as a financial analyst but is currently a graduate student in sociology, found the place by searching the Internet for properties that were within commuting distance of Manhattan and had an indoor pool. Beecroft suffers from exercise bulimia—a compulsion to burn off calories that she considers excessive—and




  • Authors@Google: Judith Thurman

    The New Yorker staff writer Judith Thurman visits Google's Mountain View, CA headquarters to discuss her latest book, "Cleopatra's Nose: 39 Varieties of Desire." This event took place on November 27, 2007 as part of the Authors@Google series.



Praise for Cleopatra's Nose

Praise for Secrets of the Flesh: A Life of Colette:
"A burnished, historically opulent, elegant, distinguished work . . . A book that will stand as literature in its own right." -- Richard Bernstein, The New York Times
"The most impressive and fascinating book of the . . . season. No novel, no memoir, no other biography displays such insight and vitality . . . Through deft observation, research, and beautiful writing, Thurman brings alive one of the most astonishing writers and women ever to stride this earth." --USA Today
"[Colette] has been the subject of . . . a half-dozen significant biographies over the past thirty years. Yet this one by Judith Thurman will be hard to top . . . Its prose is smoothly urbane, at times aphoristic, always captivating." --The Washington Post Book World

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Judith Thurman

  • Judith Thurman is the author of Isak Dinesen: The Life of a Storyteller, winner of the National Book Award, and Secrets of the Flesh: A Life of Colette. A staff writer at The New Yorker, she lives in New York City.
  • Judith Thurman Brigitte Lacombe


Available Formats and Book Details

Cleopatra's Nose

39 Varieties of Desire

Judith Thurman