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

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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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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The book would have benefited from a tighter structure, but it’s inspiring and relatable for readers with depression.

THE HILARIOUS WORLD OF DEPRESSION

The creator and host of the titular podcast recounts his lifelong struggles with depression.

With the increasing success of his podcast, Moe, a longtime radio personality and author whose books include The Deleted E-Mails of Hillary Clinton: A Parody (2015), was encouraged to open up further about his own battles with depression and delve deeper into characteristics of the disease itself. Moe writes about how he has struggled with depression throughout his life, and he recounts similar experiences from the various people he has interviewed in the past, many of whom are high-profile entertainers and writers—e.g. Dick Cavett and Andy Richter, novelist John Green. The narrative unfolds in a fairly linear fashion, and the author relates his family’s long history with depression and substance abuse. His father was an alcoholic, and one of his brothers was a drug addict. Moe tracks how he came to recognize his own signs of depression while in middle school, as he experienced the travails of OCD and social anxiety. These early chapters alternate with brief thematic “According to THWoD” sections that expand on his experiences, providing relevant anecdotal stories from some of his podcast guests. In this early section of the book, the author sometimes rambles. Though his experiences as an adolescent are accessible, he provides too many long examples, overstating his message, and some of the humor feels forced. What may sound naturally breezy in his podcast interviews doesn’t always strike the same note on the written page. The narrative gains considerable momentum when Moe shifts into his adult years and the challenges of balancing family and career while also confronting the devastating loss of his brother from suicide. As he grieved, he writes, his depression caused him to experience “a salad of regret, anger, confusion, and horror.” Here, the author focuses more attention on the origins and evolution of his series, stories that prove compelling as well.

The book would have benefited from a tighter structure, but it’s inspiring and relatable for readers with depression.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-20928-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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