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A beautiful Mind, part 1

April 19, 2006

Having seen the outstanding movie, A Beautiful Mind at the historic Normal theater on Saturday, I went to a lecture this evening by Sylvia Nasar, the author of the biographical novel on which the movie is loosely based. 

Lectures and movies both are a bit difficult for me due to chronic muscle pain – it has to be really good to justify two hours in a chair.  In both cases it was time and discomfort well spent.

“Literature is full of meteoric rises and falls,” said Nasar.  “There are very few stories, to say nothing of true stories, that have a true third act: a genuine redemption.”  She told a story of how Nash created a truly revolutionary revision of Von Neumann’s ‘Game Theory’ that has come to be of crucial importance in economics and even in biology, only to fall victim to paranoid schitzophrenia.  His wife left him (wasn’t safe to stay with a madman who thought she was his worst enemy) and he drifted in and out of mental hospitals and the life of a homeless person. 

His return to sanity took a torturous three decades, during which time his life became an example of the role of community and personal determination in managing mental illness.  Because of his disability, he was nearly passed over for the Nobel prize, but Nasar has receved dozens of letters from schitzophrenics who say they have found new hope and determination in the story.

I am definitely going to read the book now.  Nasar is an acclaimed economics journalist and her insights into John Nash are a real periscope above the mundane. 

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