Sunday, November 27, 2005

The Hypomanic Edge

The whole title is called The Hypomanic Edge: The Link Between (a Little) Craziness and (a Lot of) Success in America. Which is kind of funny because even the title is a little manic. There's a great soundbite on the front inside cover that says: "Why is America so rich and powerful? The answer lies in our genes, according to psychologist John Gartner." I got the book from the library after seeing it on Garr Reynold's website.

First, Gartner talks a little about what it means to be hypomanic, or, in other words, a little manic. He talks about what that looks like in people. Basically, it looks pretty familiar. So Gartner would probably tell me that because I live in the U.S., that we have a very high sample of these kinds of individuals. It does make sense because people who are hypomanic tend to be immigrants far more often than others. He has statistics to make this argument, which are quite interesting.

The rest of the book looks at brief biographies of individuals who typify the hypomanic trait in a sort of retrospective clinical way. Gartner makes the inference that each of these individuals was hypomanic, and he does a good job proving why that makes sense. He reviews the lives of Christopher Columbus (the best chapter); Winthrop, Williams and Penn who all share a chapter; Alexander Hamilton; Andrew Carnegie; the Selznick and Mayer families; and Craig Venter.

Gartner concludes by looking at the hypomanic trend of our nation in general. He says, I think rightly, that Europe alternates between envy and distated based on our hypomanic tendencies. He talks about it in the context of September 11, in which he admits a fear that the U.S. will cease to be an immigrant nation. I don't see this being much of a concern, even in light of the anecdote he cites of DHS busting some Wal-Mart illiegals.

By John D. Gartner
ISBN # 0743243447