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.
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
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.