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by Sylvia Nasar
Blackstone Audiobooks, 2000
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on May 7th 2004

A Beautiful Mind

Metapsychology has already published a review of Sylvia Nassar's A Beautiful Mind (April 2002). The audiobook version read by Anna Field's is unabridged, and lasts over 20 hours on thirteen tapes.  The book tells the story of how Nash grew up to be a famous Nobel Prize winner and was from a child an eccentric boy who had difficulty relating to others.  It details how his interest in mathematics suited his mind, and how he excelled at the subject.  He was arrogant and talented.  Nassar goes into considerable detail in explaining Nash's mathematical development and his ideas in game theory.  She explains his achievements and his later struggles to maintain his reputation as his grip on reality crumbled.  She details his romantic relationships with both women and men, his family life, and his psychiatric treatment over the years.  His behavior was always deeply eccentric, but eventually it became so erratic and bizarre that most of those around him decided that he needed to be hospitalized, even against his will.  When, later in his life, his work came to be considered for a Nobel Prize, Nassar chronicles the covert politics and debates among the different individuals who had the ability to make the decision, and she shows how it was a deeply controversial step for the Nobel committee to take.  For many whose primary focus is on mental illness, the central question of interest is whether Nash's mathematical creativity was in some way related to his unusual thought processes and his schizophrenia.  Nassar provides no definitive answer to this issue, but she does provide plenty of material for further speculation.

Anna Fields reads the unabridged audiobook with a good deal of authority.  Her commanding voice demands the reader's attention, and her performance is consistent throughout the whole book. 

 

© 2004 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.

 

Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Review.  His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.




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