Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama have both signed bills into law
with their left hands. And being left-handed certainly did not hold
back the artistic achievements of Michelangelo or Raphael. And the
dexterous guitar playing of Jimmi Hendrix may only have been aided
by his southpaw tendencies. Left-handedness, in fact, would appear
to be no big deal. Yet throughout history, it has been associated
with clumsiness and generally dubious personality traits like
untrustworthiness and insincerity. Even the Latin word for left,
sinister, has ominous connotations. In "The Puzzle of
Left-handedness," Rik Smits uncovers why history has been so unkind
to our lefthanded forebears. He carefully puts together the pieces
of the puzzle, presenting an array of historical anecdotes, strange
superstitions, and weird wives' tales. Smits explains how
left-handedness continues to be associated with maladies of all
kinds, including mental retardation, alcoholism, asthma, hay fever,
cancer, diabetes, insomnia, depression, and criminality. Even in
the enlightened twenty-first century, left-handedness still meets
with opposition--including from one prominent psychologist who
equates it with infantile negativism, similar to a toddler's
refusal to eat what's on his plate, and another who claims that
left-handed people have average lifespans that are nine years
shorter than those who favor the right hand. As Smits reminds us,
such speculation is backed by little factual evidence, and the
arguments presented by proponents of right-handedness tend to be
humorously absurd. "The Puzzle of Left-handedness" is an
enlightening, engaging, and entertaining odyssey through the
puzzles and paradoxes, theories and myths, of left-handed lore.
Chock full of facts and fiction, it's a book to be read with both
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