FIRE IN THE CRUCIBLE: The Alchemy of Creative Genius by John Briggs

FIRE IN THE CRUCIBLE: The Alchemy of Creative Genius

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KIRKUS REVIEW

From Briggs, who teaches at N.Y.C.'s New School, a dissection of creativity and genius that relies on alchemical metaphors as it reviews past and contemporary theories of creativity--here, touching upon the psychological and neuroscience literature and on case studies of prodigies and idiot savants; and, perhaps most important of all, referring often to the words of acknowledged creators. The direct quotes and biographical material make this book a useful reference: from Einstein to Virginia Woolf, Newton to Georgia O'Keeffe, plus Flaubert, Picasso, Conrad, Hemingway, Faulkner and a smattering of science Nobel laureates. And these references serve to illustrate certain commonalities that Briggs and other delvers in the field have noted: certain central themes (e.g., for Einstein, the notion of a continuum; for Woolf, the waves) often acknowledged by the creator in terms of childhood memories or reconstructions. Then there are habits of mind: the ability to tolerate polarities, ambivalence, even what Briggs calls ""omnivalence"": a sense that beyond the tensions of uncertainty there is something more, something that makes an aesthetic act ""an imminence of a revelation which is never fulfilled,"" to quote Borges. Don't expect final answers; Briggs offers no succinct definitions of creativity or genius. Do expect to bear about ""themata."" ""nuances,"" ""construals,"" and other new and old words coined to capture creative qualities of mind. Also, motivation, focus, restlessness, idleness, transcendent self-universe feelings, and, importantly, the distinction between talent and creativity and the significances of the cultural context. Rest assured, too, that Briggs pays no heed to IQ or special tests designed to measure creativity. A lively, eclectic compendium, then, valuable for reflecting current thinking by the analyzers as well as the objects of their analyses.

Pub Date: May 17th, 1988
Publisher: St. Martin's