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Spark: How Creativity Works Hardcover – Bargain Price, February 15, 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
Over the past 10 years, numerous artists, writers, musicians, and filmmakers have sat down with host Kurt Anderson in his acclaimed public radio show, Studio 360, to reflect on the power of art and the nature of creativity. Pulling from those interviews, Burstein, the show's producer, gathers a diverse cast of characters (Chuck Close, Richard Ford, Isabel Allende, and Patti Lupone among them) who share their thoughts about the sources of their creativity: the influence of their parents, of place, or of a shattering event, or the stimulation of working with a creative partner. Rosanne Cash tells about the moment that liberated her from anger at her father, Johnny Cash. Poet Stanley Kunitz draws his deepest inspiration from the bounty of a garden he created out of a sand dune. The photographer William Christenberry draws sustenance and inspiration from his home county in Alabama, returning there every year to photograph farms, churches, and roadside cafes. Through enlightening conversations, these creative individuals demonstrate how they lift raw materials out of familiar contexts and create art that changes how we perceive the world. (Mar.)
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“This is a book about joy, drive and art, work that we’re all capable of if we’ll only commit.” (Seth Godin, author of Linchpin )
“Spark is an encyclopedia of inspiration plucked from today’s most revered creators, leaving you not with a one-size-fits-all blueprint to creativity but with a petri dish of eclectic insights for you to distill, cross-pollinate and fertilize into a richer understanding of your own creative life.” (Maria Popova, Brain Pickings )
“Through enlightening conversations, these creative individuals demonstrate how they lift raw materials out of familiar contexts and create art that changes how we perceive the world.” (Publishers Weekly )
“Burstein offers enlightening answers from the culture’s heavy hitters, as well as the process by which they stoked these embers into a roaring fire, and how you, yes, you, might too.” (Vanity Fair )
“How better to learn about creativity than to talk with some of the world’s most creative people.” (Detroit Free Press )
“Spark is a beautiful book, enjoyable and filled with life...You will find yourself contemplating the origin of the little lights, the sparks, which show themselves only when someone special looks within.” (Philadelphia Inquirer )
Top customer reviews
Who doesn't want to hear the strike of creativity against substance, see the place where many ideas finally ignite a single creative work. That's what "Spark: How Creativity Works" would have been about...if it weren't about the author instead.
Have you ever seen a photograph with the photographer's index finger accidentally in the shot? That's how Spark is. You lose the enchantment of what might have been a lovely shot because all you can see is the author popping in, page after page. There's little space for anything else.
Julie Burstein rightly qualified herself as an expert at the outset, a necessary step. She and her intimate perspective belonged in the intro to the 9/11 piece as she was THERE, a witness. However, Ms. Burstein then continues to insert herself into every intro and into some of the stories as well. She has pride in her work, yeah, but keep it out of my way, as the reader.
The cross section of interviewees was fantastic. Few of the anecdotes inspire. As another reviewer here mentioned, I'd be willing to wager the interviews were more inspirational on the radio than in print.
Visit your local public library. Wait for the paperback, or wait for it to appear at the second-hand bookstore. You might even find it there soon, if you live near me.
Still, after shelling out good money for the hardcover, I'm ultimately disappointed by what's here. To me, it feels insubstantial, and I wish I had looked through it carefully in a bookstore before purchasing.
Each of the features here (exploring the creative process of several different writers, artists, musicians, etc.) feels quite brief. Some of the profiles are as short as 2-3 pages and come full of journalistic exposition/background.
This is fine in theory, but when I buy a book that promises "How Creativity Works" in its subtitle, I'm hoping for deeper, richer quotations from the profiled artists and less background filler. Do I really need to read, for example, that "[Kevin] Bacon, who starred in films like Footloose, JFK, and Apollo 13, is also renowned as the central character in the trivia game 'Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon...'"
(And, no offense, but can Kevin Bacon really help us understand how creativity works? Don't get me wrong--I really like the guy's work, but this just isn't what I hoped for.)
Even the longer pieces still feel thin and full of sound bites, rather than concerted reflection on creativity. You may enjoy it if you're looking for brief, breezy slices of NPR-style interview. But if, like me, you were hoping for some sustained dialogue and thinking from these artists, you may want to save your money.
The focus on the creative process provides a twist on the traditional interview style that gave me fresh insights into where creative ideas came from for these people. What I enjoyed most was the way that the author reflects on her own creative process and thus invites us to reflect on our own. The power of these interviews is that they are extremely accessible. They bring us into vulnerable times when the creative spark seems to be out of reach. I often found myself reflecting on my own creative process. The stories encouraged me to be more creative myself.
Even though the people featured are from the arts, movies, television, and music, Spark is inspirational for any person regardless of your field. Whether you bring creativity to your business, your job, a hobby, or your art, Spark sheds light on this complex human process.
Because the book is so tight, I sometimes found myself wanting more. I look forward to future volumes exploring more creative people!
But it has great essays about how artists(of several different disciplines) grab those sparks of creation and run with them. Very interesting.
Each chapter tells the story of a different artist, and it feels like Julie Burstein spent time with each one of those people. I never had the feeling I was reading from transcripts, but instead that I got to visit with the artists myself, and that she asked them the questions I would have asked.