Dr. Judith Schlesinger
Author of "The Insanity Hoax: Exposing the myth of the mad genius," Dr. J combines her love of jazz and her fascination with psychology, focusing on where they overlap: in celebrating the individual spirit.
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I'll start this from the recent present and work backwards. My 2012 book, The Insanity Hoax, examines the fictional link between creativity and bipolar disorder, with many examples from the jazz world. A rare hybrid of serious scholarship and humor, Hoax is available at amazon.com in both real and Kindle formats. If you'd like a signed copy (with inscription of your choice) sent directly to the mad genius on your list, please visit www.theinsanityhoax.com.
I'm tickled to report that Hoax has become a textbook at both Temple University and the Royal College of Music, in London; it delights me whenever people realize that the mad genius is little more than a demeaning and unscientific stereotype. Without benefit of a publisher's marketing staff, I've managed to get some swell reviews and do several NPR interviews, author lectures and podcasts. There was even a moment on the HuffPo Live (before I understood that they will interview virtually any breathing entity about anything).
I was also invited to contribute to a psych textbook from Cambridge University Press; Creativity and Mental Illness will be out in 2014. Out of 17 international experts on the subject, it seems I'm the only one who doesn't believe that people need to be really crazy to be really creative. That's why my portion is called Building on Sand: The cautionary chapter.
Another central passion is helping underfamous artists get the attention they deserve. In 2011, I co-executive-produced the CD Trust for the Sean Smith Quartet [superb bassist/composer Sean, with John Hart (guitar), John Ellis (sax), and Russ Meissner (drums).] Now I'm working with Brazilian guitarist/vocalist Paulinho Garcia to produce Beautiful Love, his solo collection of, well, beautiful love songs; it will be released on Valentine's Day, 2014.
And now, the backstory -- i.e., some things I've done and been: earned a PhD in psychology from NYU, toiled as therapist, school shrink, crisis counselor, university professor, college administrator. Authored a biography of Humphrey Bogart (Metro Books) and the psychology chapter for Stephen Sondheim: A Casebook (Garland Press).
I published numerous book reviews and extended ramblings about psychology, education, and general cultural idiocy to The Baltimore Sun back when it had a real opinion and books section. I am/have been a writer, consultant, and/or editorial board member for a number of psychology journals, including the Journal of Creative Behavior. I was also the humor columnist for Topia, a glossy national magazine about artists that lasted three whole years before going belly-up.
Other work has appeared in The American Psychologist, The National Psychologist, The Counseling Psychologist, The British Journal of Psychiatry, the Journal of Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry, The Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts, The Skeptical Inquirer, and the Journal of Polymorphous Perversity (no kidding - my article called Free the DSM IV was even re-published in More Oral Sadism and the Vegetarian Personality (Brunner/Mazel).
My music writing has been in the All Music Guide, The Jazz Institute of Chicago, The Sondheim Review, The Jazzletter, jazz.com, the Encyclopedia of American Studies, and of course the best of all: Allaboutjazz.com, where I'm a senior reviewer and creator of two columns: Shrinktunes and Nite & Disk.
I do liner notes, but selectively, in line with my policy of never doing bad or even blah reviews -- if I don't genuinely love a CD, I just won't cover it. Let someone else pour negative ink on somebody's dream. Artists whose CDs I've described include Don Friedman, Shelly Berg, and Frank Vignola.
Finally, I'm also a musician. Trained as a classical pianist, not a bad folk guitarist in my hippie days, I spent many years doing avocational jazz singing and drumming -- even got paid for singing and playing djembe at a wedding -- before forming the JS Fourtet with Norm Lotz (bass), Nick Consol (piano), and Gerry Fitzgerald, (drums). We jam regularly just for fun, and it's a blast.
I also love traveling, gardening, long walks on winter beaches -- oops, wrong site!