cover image The Face of Glory: Creativity, Consciousness and Civilization

The Face of Glory: Creativity, Consciousness and Civilization

William Anderson. University Press of New England, $30 (408pp) ISBN 978-0-87451-804-7

As one might guess from the subtitle, this is a big subject. In the end, the entire creative processDfrom germinal idea through its final impact on societyDis too big a subject, at least judging from the results in this work. Anderson (Dante the Maker; Green Man) divides his massive undertaking into three sections: the inspiration, application and appreciation of the products of genius. His theories are thin in places, and he sometimes presents amorphous ideas such as the Great Memory as fundamental truths. There are a lot of examples from numerous cultures and historical periods, moving from pre-Roman Celtic Europe to modern-day India, although the scope is hardly universal (there's no material from sub-Saharan Africa). Anderson is best when discussing well-known innovators like Schiller, Beethoven, Goethe and Einstein, but he's probably most helpful when he touches on lesser-known geniuses such as the Viking poet Egil Skallagrimsson whose work was incorporated in the 13th century Egil's Saga. Although the various stories can be delightful in their own right, it is occasionally difficult to relate them to the author's purpose. The Face of Glory is a bold attempt to understand a mysterious impulse; unfortunately, by the end of this thick book, creativity remains no less enigmatic. Photos (Feb.)