“Fascinating, insightful, and surprisingly funny.” — Chris Brubeck, ‘fairly sane and highly functional’ jazz musician and classical composer.
“In this original and passionate work, Judith Schlesinger takes on one of the great Western myths—the mad, tortured genius—and serves up her painstaking research on the subject with equal portions of wit, wisdom, and criticism. The myth, she shows, is encrusted in our ways of viewing creativity, fed to us by an unthinking media, and fueled by the self-serving ‘analyses’ of so-called experts.
Her book is chock-full of facts that set the record straight and insights that challenge us to think for ourselves. This is an emancipatory book—and a good read.”
— David Cohen, PhD, Professor of Social Work and Distinguished Tocqueville-Fulbright Chair, Florida International University
“Do you have to be crazy to be creative? Nowadays, most people seem to think so, but the evidence points in the other direction. How, then, did this mistaken notion worm its way into our collective consciousness, and how much damage has it done to our understanding of art and artists? In The Insanity Hoax, Judith Schlesinger exposes the exaggerations and falsehoods of the ever-seductive myth of the mad genius - and explains why so many people prefer it to the truth.
Anyone who believes that madness is the flip side of the coin of creativity needs to read this book.”
— Terry Teachout, author of Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong, and drama critic of the Wall Street Journal
“Judith Schlesinger has hit the bull's-eye with The Insanity Hoax. She passionately and completely debunks the biased, pervasive notion that artists are 'crazier' than the rest of humankind, showing us in highly engaging prose how they stare human frailties squarely in the face for the benefit of all. Thank you, Judith.”
— Shelton G. Berg, Dean and Patricia L. Frost Professor of Music, Frost School of Music, University of Miami
“Decades of scientific study have shown that there is no connection between creativity and mental illness. In fact, there is substantial evidence that creative people are more healthy than average. Schlesinger’s book does an excellent job of summarizing the history of the mad genius myth, and of debunking the few published studies that are often cited as evidence for a link.
If you are tempted to believe in a link between insanity and creativity, you absolutely must read this book first.”
— Keith Sawyer, PhD, Professor at Washington University in St. Louis, and author of Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration
“Judith Schlesinger makes her case with wry wit, wisdom and passion that the symptoms of madness and just plain old creativity have long been joined in an inappropriate dance. There are many jazz musicians referred to in the book that have skirted both of these labels. She provides true insight into their inner creative lives.”
— Fred Hersch, award-winning jazz pianist and composer
“A rare combination of trenchant observations, penetrating insight, vivid writing, and great humor, Judith Schlesinger rips to shreds the ‘common wisdom’ that creative people and people of genius are more likely than others to be ‘mentally ill’ (however one defines that term) or even that their mental illness is responsible for their brilliance. A must-read for everyone who cares or thinks about a life of creativity, about emotional pain, or both.”
— Paula J. Caplan, PhD, clinical and research psychologist, author of They Say You're Crazy: How the World’s Most Powerful Psychiatrists Decide Who’s Normal and editor of Bias in Psychiatric Diagnosis
“Judith Schlesinger lets all the hot air out of the over-inflated psychobabble-for-profit balloon, wielding a deft, sometimes deadly scalpel fueled by acute insight, humor, and a delightfully readable prose style. As a bonus for this reader, she does justice to jazz and its makers.”
— Dan Morgenstern, Director, Institute of Jazz Studies, author of Living with Jazz, and winner of eight Grammy awards
“This work is a corrective to unwarranted folk beliefs and misleading and erroneous research regarding a connection between creativity and mental illness.”
— Albert Rothenberg, MD, Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, and author of Creativity and Madness: New Findings and Old Stereotypes
“Judith Schlesinger’s wonderful new book does a superb job of debunking popular myths about ‘crazy artists’ and redressing the mental health industry’s practice of pathologizing creative people. This book should be required reading for creative and performing artists, their teachers, their therapists, and anyone who loves them. Not to be missed!”
— Eric Maisel, PhD, author of Rethinking Depression and The Van Gogh Blues
The Insanity Hoax is gaining increasing acceptance as a college and graduate school text in both psychology and music.
For professors and book clubs: a printable book description.
“At last, there is someone to tackle the Mad Genius legend. Judith Schlesinger's The Insanity Hoax picks up the mantle for unfairly stereotyped artists - and does so with passion, wit, and incisive critique. Highly recommended.”
— James C. Kaufman, PhD, President of the American Psychological Association Division for Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts
Judith was invited to record an interview for the science and philosophy series Rationally Speaking, which “explores the borderlines between reason and nonsense.” The recording is scheduled for October 30th, 2013; watch this space for availability on iTunes and elsewhere.
Hear Judith discusss the mad genius on The New Jazz Archive, Jeff Haas's weekly, syndicated show from Interlochen Public Radio. "An hour with some of the world’s big thinkers who occupy the fascinating intersection of jazz and psychology." Time of interview 6:15 - 18:51.
Watch Judith in a Huffington Post Live conversation: "A Beautiful Sacrifice." Hosted by Janet Varney.
"Stardust, Smoke and Mirrors"—an invited article about The Insanity Hoax by its author—is the main cover story for the September/October Skeptical Inquirer: The magazine for science and reason. Watch this space for web availability.
The Insanity Hoax stimulates such lively discussion and critical thinking that it has been required reading for three consecutive classes in "Creativity and Psychopathology" at Temple University. It's also part of the Master's degree in Performance Science at the Royal College of Music in London.
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Judith was co-executive producer of the Sean Smith Quartet's acclaimed CD Trust (2011, Smithereens Records). She is now producing Brazilian guitarist/singer Paulinho Garcia's solo CD, Beautiful Love, under her Shrinktunes Media label. Release scheduled for Valentine's Day, 2014.
Judith's new book is Running Out of Somedays: The bliss and bafflement of getting older. Also in progress, aiming for publication in 2014.
The Insanity Hoax is the first book to directly challenge the mad genius myth by exposing the pseudoscientific foundation it sits on, as well as the social and psychological reasons for its widespread popularity.