The Passion for Life
By Kay Redfield Jamison
(Knopf, Hardcover, 9780375401442, 416pp.)
Publication Date: September 21, 2004
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
The author of the bestselling An Unquiet Mind–and internationally renowned authority on mood disorders–now gives us something wonderfully different: an exploration of exuberance and how it fuels our most important creative and scientific achievements.
John Muir’s lifelong passion to save America’s wild places, Wilson Bentley’s legendary obsession to record for posterity the beauty of individual snowflakes, the boundless scientific curiosity behind Watson and Crick’s discovery of DNA, sea lions that surf and porcupines that dance–Kay Redfield Jamison shows how these and many more examples both human and animal define the nature of exuberance, and how this exuberance relates to intellectual searching, risk-taking, creativity, and survival itself. She examines the hereditary predisposition to exuberance; the role of the brain chemical dopamine; the connection between positive moods and psychological resilience; and the differences between exuberance and mania. She delves into some of the phenomena of exuberance–the contagiousness of laughter, the giddiness of new love, the intoxicating effects of music and of religious ecstasy–while also addressing the dangerous desire to simulate exuberance by using drugs or alcohol. In a fascinating and intimate coda to the rest of the book, renowned scientists, writers, and politicians share their thoughts on the forms and role of exuberance in their own lives.
Original, inspiring, authoritative, Exuberance brims with the very energy and passion that it celebrates.
Kay Redfield Jamison is Professor of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine as well as Honorary Professor of English at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. She is the author of the national best sellers An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness, Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide, and Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament. She is coauthor of the standard medical text on manic-depressive illness and author or coauthor of more than one hundred scientific papers about mood disorders, creativity, and psychopharmacology. Dr. Jamison, the recipient of numerous national and international scientific awards, was distinguished lecturer at Harvard University in 2002 and the Litchfield lecturer at the University of Oxford in 2003. She is a John P. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellow.
“[Jamison is] that rare writer who can offer a kind of unified field theory of science and art. . . . The origins and mystery of creativity have long been her holy grail, and she argues — with her usual wit, ingenuity and panache — that exuberance is one of its wellsprings.” —The Washington Post Book World
“Fascinating reading. . . . On a subject that invites inflates prose, Jamison maintains a deft but not showy eloquence. . . . Trenchant and entertaining.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“Jamison brilliantly conjures up characters. . . . A book on exuberance ought to be a romp to read. The one is.” —Los Angeles Times
“Jamison has a capacity for moving smoothly between tasty digressions, hard science and sweeping cultural analyses. . . . This reads like a book that was a long time in coming, written by one who came to appreciate the brightest sunlight only after becoming acquainted with the darkest nights.” —The Seattle Times