cover image Creativity: The Work and Lives of 91 Eminent People

Creativity: The Work and Lives of 91 Eminent People

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. HarperCollins Publishers, $27.5 (456pp) ISBN 978-0-06-017133-9

Based on interviews with 91 internationally recognized creative people-among them Nobel physicist John Bardeen, arts administrator-performer Kitty Carlisle Hart, writer Denise Levertov, jazz musician Oscar Peterson, electronics executive Robert Galvin-this book offers a highly readable anatomy of creativity. As Csikzentmihalyi (Flow) argues, creativity requires not only unusual individuals, but a culture and field of experts that can foster and validate such work. Most creative people, the author suggests, have dialectic personalities: smart yet naive, both extroverted and introverted, etc. Expanding on his previous book, Csikszentmihalyi suggests that complex and challenging work exemplifies fully engaged ""flow."" Synthesizing study results, he reports that none of the interviewees was popular during adolescence; while they were not necessarily more brilliant than their college peers, they displayed more ""concentrated attention."" Later, they kept a consistent focus on future work. The author reminds us that while individuals can make their own opportunities, a supportive society offering resources and rewards can foster creativity. His advice may sound like homilies-""Try to be surprised by something every day""-but is often worthy. (June)