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IN BRIEF

Nonfiction

September 19, 1993|CHRIS GOODRICH

CREATING MINDS: An Anatomy of Creativity Seen Through the Lives of Freud, Einstein, Picasso, Stravinsky, Eliot, Graham, and Gandhi by Howard Gardner (Basic Books: $30; 464 pp.). Howard Gardner, professor of education at Harvard and MacArthur Prize recipient for his research into the learning process, in this book promises more than he delivers. "Creating Minds" is intent on showing that Freud was wrong to say that creativity cannot be rationally analyzed, but Gardner's attempts to tease out patterns in the development of creativity aren't very illuminating. Many of his principal points, for one thing, are small beer; Gardner's research into the seven prominent figures named above have lead him, for example, to the unsurprising conclusion that breakthroughs take 10 years, require significant personal support by others and entail some kind of "Faustian bargain" to ensure preservation of the creative gift. Moreover, the biographies at the heart of the book are not closely integrated into Gardner's ideas about creativity, which we get principally through repetitive, social-scientific discussions at the beginning and end of the book. He does shine some light into a murky corner of human understanding, but the shapes and shadings he reveals are elusive and ambiguous, and thus often more frustrating than the original darkness.

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