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Main page » Non-Fiction » Divine Madness: Ten Stories of Creative Struggle

Divine Madness: Ten Stories of Creative Struggle


It's commonplace to observe that the line between genius and mental illness is razor thin, and critics point to a long list of writers, artists and musicians—from William Blake to Sylvia Plath—as illustrations. Kottler, a professor of counseling at California State University, Fullerton, superficially probes the relationship between madness and creativity through 10 case studies of artists who are as famous for their mental instability as their work: Sylvia Plath, Judy Garland, Mark Rothko, Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Woolf, Charles Mingus, Vaslav Nijinsky, Marilyn Monroe, Lenny Bruce and Brian Wilson. An excellent storyteller, he uses these case studies to illustrate the loneliness, sensitivity and intensity that characterized the lives of these artists and the extent to which their personal traumas and psychological instability blossomed into creative genius. For example, he tells how Plath's contentious relationship with her mother and her tortured marriage to Ted Hughes drove her into depression and eventually suicide but also fueled her poetic genius. But the stories of these artists are already very well known, and Kottler offers no genuinely new insights. Moreover, he resorts to sophomoric and clichйd notions—"we are all a little crazy, some more than others," "creativity is thinking outside the box"—to explain the relationship between madness and creativity.

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Tags: artists, their, mental, Sylvia, between