UNCOMMON GENIUS: How Great Ideas Are Born by Denise Shekerjian

UNCOMMON GENIUS: How Great Ideas Are Born

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Interviewing some 40 winners of the MacArthur Foundation Fellowships--the so-called ""genius awards""--former trial lawyer and author Shekerjian (Competent Counsel: Working With Lawyers, 1985) tries to derive the recipe for creativity. By blending conversation and thumbnail biography with snippets of theory, Shekerjian divides the creative process--and her book--into three parts. First, and most satisfyingly, she describes what it is like to stay loose enough to let creative ideas pour forth. Interviewing paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould, she discovers that the wellspring of creativity is discovering one's particular talent--that which comes so naturally that one doesn't even think of it as a talent. ""My talent concerns connectivity,"" says Gould. ""I can sit down on just about any subject and think of about twenty things that relate to it and they're not hokey connections."" The tricky part, Shekerjian discovers, is accepting the risk and the ambiguity of finding the perfect form (""There's only one way it goes together, one best taxonomy, and I knew what it was,"" Gould adds). Speaking with self-taught art historian Henry Kraus, who stayed free enough of conventional wisdom to offer startling new interpretations of medieval art, Shekerjian begins to discover that the blend of freedom and persistence necessary to come up with an authentically new vision can often be a lonely--if not downright tortuous--road. Balancing the lively pragmatism of filmmaker John Sayles with the visionary zeal of environmentalist Lester Brown and social scientist Robert Coles against the hermetic progress of artists like Robert Irwin (who spent isolated years painting a single line on blank canvas), the author concludes that creativity can boil down to pure persistence. And after persistence come--sometimes--loneliness and pain. An anecdotal stroll through the gardens of creativity. Not profoundly revealing, but of interest to the general reader looking for a general outline of greatness.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1989
ISBN: 0140109862
Publisher: Viking