Title: Spark: How Creativity Works
Author: Julie Burstein (Foreword by Kurt Anderson)
Creativity is an elusive subject. We enjoy its fruits—movies, novels, paintings, songs—but rarely are we privy to what happens in the creative process. In Spark, Julie Burstein traces the roots of some of the twenty-first century’s most influential and creative thinkers, including Joyce Carol Oates, Yo-Yo Ma, David Milch, Isabel Allende, and Joshua Redman. Burstein pulls back the curtain to reveal the sources of these artists’ inspiration and the processes that bring their work into being. “These artists may not change lead into gold,” Burstein writes, “but they lift materials from their familiar contexts, combining, reshaping, transforming them into works of art that change the way we see the world.” Spark is an invaluable resource for the aspiring writer and artist, but the need for creativity extends well beyond the world of paintbrushes and typewriters. Creativity is integral to business, parenting, education, science, and, perhaps most poignantly, our personal relationships. Rarely do books on creativity illuminate and inspire; this marvelous volume will help you find a spark of your own (from Goodreads).
Thoughts: About two weeks ago I was in the library idly scanning the shelves when this little guy caught my attention. I hadn’t heard of it before, but it seemed like something I might enjoy; finding out just how some artists, writers, musicians, and other creative types tick and approach their projects is something that I am always interested in hearing about. Unfortunately, Spark didn’t really impress me.
Julie Bursrtein helped to create and hosted the radio show Studio 360, which dealt with creativity and the arts, for ten years. The entire book is basically a rehash of the high points of the show from the last few years. The sections are grouped around some vague theme, like childhood, home, the importance of memory, etc., and each chapter is a few pages concerning one particular artist and how that theme relates to their work. When I read the dust jacket at the library there was no mention on the inside flap about Studio 360 or that the book was basically entirely drawn from the show and its interviews. To be honest, if I had known this there would have been a good chance that I would have placed Spark back on the shelf. I thought this book would be about creativity, inspiration, about how artists approach their work and the world. I found very little of that in Spark. The book is basically short sections on various artist and their work that fit into some of the themes in the book, no matter how vaguely. I wanted to read about creativity, not how some songwriter took to the internet and with the help of her fans self-funded her next album or how a husband and wife architectural team work so well together. I wanted to know about these artists and their creative process and I found very little of it here which was very disappointing.
I also found the structure of the book very unbalanced. Most of the artists profiled get around 3 to 4 pages devoted to them. However a few got around 10 or more, one or two are featured more than once in different sections, and a couple only get around a page and a half- one artist in particular was featured in a good-sized section in the beginning and featured again at the end, but this time only for two paragraphs. That’s not even one full page! I’m not sure what the point was in including so little in that case or why some chapters were so much longer then the others. In the shorter chapters there was very little to connect to the theme of the section it was placed in and this was also surprisingly the case for the longer sections as well; I don’t need to know where someone went to school or how they met their spouse unless it directly deals with how they approach their work, their creative process, or else somehow relates to the theme of that section. A lot of the longer sections contained a lot of fluff and padding that just didn’t need to be there.
I don’t know– perhaps I would have liked this book better if it had been called Studio 360 and it was obvious going in that the book was based on and entirely about the radio show and not about creativity and art in general. I felt like I was mislead with this book and it’s purpose; if Spark had been a good book in spite of this I would have been fine but Spark, despite its name, had very little spark to be found and what little there was did not make up for the rest, in my opinion.
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