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The Insanity Hoax: Exposing the Myth of the Mad Genius Paperback – January 15, 2012


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Editorial Reviews

Review

"In this original and passionate work, Judith takes on one of the great Western myths and serves up her painstaking research with equal portions of wit, wisdom and criticism.  An emancipatory book." - David Cohen, PhD, Professor of Social Work, and Distinguished Tocqueville-Fulbright Chair, Florida International University

"Fascinating, insightful, and surprisingly funny." - Chris Brubeck, "fairly sane and highly functional" jazz musician and classical composer.

"In her skillful and entertaining dissection of the myth, Schlesinger deconstructs the pseudoscience used to support it, while illuminating the deep cultural functions that this myth can serve for society and the geniuses themselves." - Stuart A. Kirk, DSW, coauthor of The Selling of DSM, Making Us Crazy, and the forthcoming Mad Science.

About the Author

Judith Schlesinger, PhD has spent her entire life marveling at creativity and surrounding herself with others who cherish it.  Psychologist, psychotherapist, author, educator, musician, jazz critic, and producer, she believes that genius should be celebrated, not diagnosed.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Shrinktunes Media (January 15, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0983698244
  • ISBN-13: 978-0983698241
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,783,424 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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I have seldom read a book that is so well written.
Teacher
Schlesinger's book exposes the false myth of the mad genius and helps the reader understand the creative process.
Dr. R, Hockessin, DE
This book just may be the cure to what is ailing us- it's also great fun to read!
R. Sieland

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By shrinkucci on November 28, 2011
Format: Paperback
Dr Schlesinger's THE INSANITY HOAX is a brilliant book about a serious topic; but the kicker is that it's also hugely entertaining. The good doctor is not only a psychologist, she's a well known, respected jazz critic. The combination of these disciplines enabled her to write a book which demonstrates a professionally honed research logic and a witty, improvisational writing style. It's the perfect combination and I found myself throughout the book alternating between gasps of surprise at her beautifully constructed arguments and laughing out loud at her funny, creative jazz riffs.

There are a lot of bigwig psychologists and psychiatrists who have built their reputations (and are making a bundle of bucks) off a false belief--i.e., the myth of the mad genius. The author exposes their weak and often non-existent research and dismantles the illogical assumptions which they claim support their position. Here's one short example from the book of such a false assumption:

"A common misconception among mad genius researchers is that the notion of creativity is a continuous state,
so that any variations in productivity must be caused by some interfering pathology...this is the rationale
for all those productivity timelines, where the quiet stretches of great artists become 'evidence' of their
depression and the spikes in activity are equated with mania. But other explanations are certainly possible.
Here's one: when Aaron Copland was asked why he hadn't written anything lately he replied that he hadn't gotten
any interesting musical ideas. This is perfectly reasonable.
Read more ›
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Michael on February 1, 2012
Format: Paperback
Whether or not you agree with the premise of this book -- that it's wrong to collectively brand most creative geniuses as pathologically unstable -- you will enjoy the music of Dr. Schlesinger's wise words and inventive wit. For this reader, "The Insanity Hoax" was an informative case of preaching to the choir, but it was still a page-turner nonetheless.

The writing here is much like listening to a sophisticated jazz solo full of "the sounds of surprise" (to paraphrase Whitney Balliett). And just browsing the Table of Contents should give you an idea of how enlightening (and entertaining) this solo is going to be: "The Pale, Stammering Genius," "Yelling 'Crazy' in a Crowded Concert Hall," "Shrinks Are People Too"...

There are also insightful gems like: "In mad genius research, it seems like everyone is busy reinventing the wheel, which prevents combining their disparate studies into a strong case for anything..." and "...the mad genius will never be legitimized by research motivation, no matter how passionate; or a theoretical hunch, no matter how compelling; or even an intuitive list of great talents who get their bipolar badges long after death..." And then there's: "Given a world of twittering multitaskers who get pelted with stimuli from all sides -- where everything is important, therefore nothing is -- you get just a few seconds to make your point and rise above the hive." An apt observation that could apply to many facets of cyber-life in the 21st century.

Again, if you are already in Dr. Schlesinger's corner on this longstanding issue (read: stereotype), her compelling case will only fortify your beliefs. But there is also the joy of the journey right up to the last page. Just because we already know what Miles Davis is going to play on "My Funny Valentine" doesn't make the experience any less inspiring. And if you enjoy first-rate writing that deconstructs -- and debunks -- a widely-held myth, this is a very inspiring book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By D.A.M. on December 20, 2011
Format: Paperback
Well, this is a find. I'm neither a psychologist nor a particular fan of professional debunkers (sometimes I like my Myths just as they are, you know?), but when this book fell into my hands, something about the puckish face on the cover (is that Dionysus?) made me open up and jump in. By the time I was halfway through the Prelude, I was both surprised to know just how much I had bought into the received wisdom that `geniuses are crazy,' and alarmed at my first glimpse of how psychological definitions actually arise.

Dr. Schlesinger certainly knows her field and is confident in her scholarship (there's an extensive bibliography and an index) but to me the book's greatest great pleasure is that she is clearly addressing thinking, reasoning people everywhere rather than solely her peers. Me, in other words. I like that. Plus, she is witty. I REALLY like that. She has such a deft way of drawing you in and honoring your intelligence judgment as a reader that there are grease stains on my copy on page 78 (somewhere near Lombroso's ca. 1891 assertion that people of high ability are "... prone to rickets, amnesia, prominent ears, `excessive originality,' and `inadequate beard,'" among other sins. Who knew?) I was really hungry, but didn't want to stop reading. Good thing it wasn't an eBook.

All in all, a really good read: enlightening, entertaining, and entirely without the lingering after-sense that I might, after all, have spent my time more productively. In fact, this is one to keep because I will surely go back to it; not least for the great quotes and anecdotes (Dr. J seems to know a lot of amazing musicians, and how they think and work), but also because as a self-confessed creative person, there is always room on my bookshelf for an author who "gets" (and elucidates!) the singularities of the creative life. Unless, of course, I pass it on to my friends. In which case I'll need another copy.
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