A blurry book, desperately in need of sharper vision in order to succeed either as a history of creativity or as a guidebook...

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CREATIVITY AND BEYOND

CULTURE, VALUES, AND CHANGE

With much enthusiasm but little focus, Weiner’s history of creativity dulls the intellect even as it attempts to stimulate the soul.

In his overview of creativity in the western world, Weiner skims the historical and literary record from the Bible to the Dalai Lama (taking into account nearly everyone and everything in between) in order to consider the multiple meanings that creativity has held for humanity throughout the centuries. Despite this laudable objective, Weiner’s project collapses under the weight of its own scope—which is too massive to be organized in a single concise volume. The entire Middle Ages, for example, warrant a mere eight pages of text, while another equally unwieldy chapter condenses the innovations of the Romantics, the Victorians, and the Modernists into one freeforall of creative frenzy. A consideration of the cultural variables that influence perceptions of creativity follows this brief history, concluding with a puzzling investigation of recent Chinese history and its effect upon the creation of a new national identity. The great failing of Weiner’s study thus lies in its failure to stick to a working and meaningful definition of creativity: The formation of China’s national character is an interesting question, of course, but to view national identity formation as a result of a specific creative process tempers creativity into a meaningless and hopelessly nebulous term. In a similar vein, the Spanish Inquisition emerges in Weiner’s account not as a religious war, but as a stifling of heretical creativity. Creative heretics? This confluence of disparate personal and social forces under the rubric of creativity undermines the initial promise of the investigation. Concluding with a paean to the blessings of creativity in everyday life, Weiner digresses into blathering suggestions about creative joys and other bloated selfhelp trivialities on his way to a disappointing finish.

A blurry book, desperately in need of sharper vision in order to succeed either as a history of creativity or as a guidebook for the lost.

Pub Date: March 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-7914-4477-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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