Sunday, April 02, 2006

Book Review: "A Beautiful Mind"

Anyone wanting to read this book in search of anecdotes from the movie will be disappointed. John Nash was a socially challenged genius, a mathematician from West Virginia who went to Princeton, a paranoid schizophrenic, and a Nobel Prize winner. The book and the movie share those broad story lines. However, none of the details in the story match up.

Ms. Naser manages to write a biography that creates sympathy for a man who in many ways is not terribly likeable. Even before the evident onset of Professor Nash's disease, he was socially difficult, childish, and arrogant, while also being brilliant. His romantic encounters and fathering of children were self-centered and harmful to others. Even so, one cannot help but feel sad for the sense of loss that Profeessor Nash felt over the years and the opportunities wasted. Anyone who has either lost years to illness or bad decisions, or who has known someone who has done so, can feel the ache of that sense of loss.

The sections on Professor Nash's mathematical accomplishments are necessary to indicate the level of his brilliance in his field, but will be largely incomprehensible for those who have not engaged in the field. Even so, this is a book that can be enjoyed by the general reader.

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