Spark: How Creativity Works

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Overview

How did Richard Ford's cat influence his work as a novelist? HOW is Chuck Close's portraiture driven by his inability to remember faces? What pivotal moment helped Rosanne Cash understand the healing power of the stage?

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...

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Spark: How Creativity Works

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Overview

How did Richard Ford's cat influence his work as a novelist? HOW is Chuck Close's portraiture driven by his inability to remember faces? What pivotal moment helped Rosanne Cash understand the healing power of the stage?

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Detroit Free Press
“How better to learn about creativity than to talk with some of the world’s most creative people.”
Vanity Fair
“Burstein offers enlightening answers from the culture’s heavy hitters, as well as the process by which they stoked these embers into a roaring fire, and how you, yes, you, might too.”
Philadelphia Inquirer
“Spark is a beautiful book, enjoyable and filled with life...You will find yourself contemplating the origin of the little lights, the sparks, which show themselves only when someone special looks within.”
Seth Godin
“This is a book about joy, drive and art, work that we’re all capable of if we’ll only commit.”
Maria Popova
“Spark is an encyclopedia of inspiration plucked from today’s most revered creators, leaving you not with a one-size-fits-all blueprint to creativity but with a petri dish of eclectic insights for you to distill, cross-pollinate and fertilize into a richer understanding of your own creative life.”
Kirkus Reviews

What brings on an idea? How does an artist make art, a designer a sketch, a writer a sentence? You won't find out in these brief profiles from Studio 360, though the book is not entirely without merit.

Host Burstein's book bears an unfortunate subtitle that promises what it does not deliver, for which see, most recently, Steven Johnson's excellentWhere Good Ideas Come From (2010). Instead, the book gathers what might be thought of as show notes, bits and pieces of what can sometimes seem a free-form exercise—for, as Burstein allows, the show ranges from talking with "Nora Ephron about cooking, and with Susan Sontag about war; with Rosanne Cash about creative children of famous parents and with Simon Schama about the way maps help us understand the world." The roster of talent is huge, and some of the pieces are appropriately memorable, as when the artist Chuck Close, now confined to a wheelchair, recounts his adventures experimenting with the perspectival grid in order to upend the brain's expectations, and when sound designer Ben Burtt discusses doing much the same with "tones and beeps and whistles and static," the stuff that populates the soundscapes ofStar WarsandWALL-E. Alexander Payne, the director of such offbeat fare asAbout Schmidt andElection, discusses the freedom brought about by shooting a Hollywood movie on familiar turf—in his case, Omaha. Photographer David Plowden recalls an early encounter with the Great Plains, where, he discovered, "[t]here was nothing to hold on to." Unfortunately, too many of the pieces are merely anecdotal snippets a couple of pages long, without development, connection. or follow-up. We learn nothing from actor Kevin Bacon's revelation that as a child he was encouraged to make model houses out of Elmer's glue and matchsticks, or from the aforementioned Ms. Cash's recollections of her father's (Johnny, that is) encouragement, for the elaboration of which see the liner notes to her recent albumThe List or her outstanding memoir Composed (2010).

Of some interest to budding artists, filmmakers and the like, but not particularly useful at that.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061732393
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/10/2012
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 790,301
  • Product dimensions: 5.36 (w) x 7.86 (h) x 0.66 (d)

Meet the Author

Julie Burstein

Julie Burstein is a Peabody Award-winning radio producer and TED speaker. Julie designed Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen for Public Radio International, and led the creative team at WNYC for many years. She's the host of Pursuit of Spark, conversations about creative approaches to the possibilities, challenges, and pleasures of everyday life.

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Table of Contents

Foreword Kurt Andersen ix

Introduction xv

1 Engaging Adversity 1

Chuck Close 5

Donald Hall 14

Jill Sobule 22

2 Modern Alchemy 27

Ben Burtt 30

Elizabeth Streb 37

Richard Serra 44

3 The Cultivated and the Wild 57

Stanley Kunitz 59

Mel Chin 65

Julie Bargmann 70

4 Going Home 77

William Christenberry 82

Alexander Payne 92

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 98

5 Imagination's Wellspring 105

Mira Nair 108

David Plowden 113

Richard Ford 118

Bill Viola 123

6 Mothers and Fathers 127

Patti LuPone 130

Miriam Katin 132

David Milch 136

Kevin Bacon 139

Rosanne Cash 143

Joshua Redman 146

7 Creative Partners 151

Alison Krauss and Robert Plant 155

Ang Lee and James Schamus 161

Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi 172

8 Reweaving a Shattered World 187

Terence Blanchard 191

Lynn Nottage 196

Joel Meyerowitz 204

9 Getting to Work 213

Yo-Yo Ma 216

Isabel Allende 219

Joyce Carol Oates 223

Richard Serra 226

John Irving 228

Tony Kushner 231

Chuck Close 235

Acknowledgments 237

Notes on Sources 241

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Customer Reviews

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    Gold's den

    A medium cave with a bed of leaves towards the back. A large cabinet and pot lie next to each other on the left wall. On the right wall is a chest, with bits of paper poking out, and a box with a large quill and ink.

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