Gail Saltz

Accessibly written for a broad audience, GENIUS focuses on world-renown icons whom excelled, in part, because they suffered various disorders that ultimately fed their particular kind of genius and allowed them to achieve greatness.  The goal of the book is to fascinate, as Malcolm Gladwell does, while also examining elements of each mental illness that can work knowingly or unconsciously towards the achievement of something positive, even extraordinary.

Dr. Saltz pulls from biochemistry/neuroscience to talk about the biology of illness as well as the psychodynamics, originating with families, and the powerful impact that has on real psychopathology—the two do not exist in isolation. She will examine the walking wounded, people who physically manifest an inner suffering. Consider, for example, Houdini, a walking-wounded due to his repeated failure of a father and the heavy responsibility of supporting his mother. Houdini channeled his lifelong obsession with escape to create an entirely new art form. Consider also Mozart, who lived under the crippling oppression of his controlling father. Only after leaving home and owning his own art—at the price of family expulsion—did he create his best work, which expressed the torture of rebellion and the exaltation of freedom.

GENIUS will fascinate while also lifting the stigma of mental illness, arguing that we should always treat suffering, harness creativity, and appreciate the whole person.  The book will examine the powerful impact that early childhood experience and family have on psychopathology, the suffering we all endure at the hands of our family, and the many ways we are shaped by that suffering. It finally asks: is today’s obsession with the perfect childhood producing future adults without the skills to handle adversity, and can you find drive without adversity?

Dr. Gail Saltz hosts series at the famed 92Y on “Genius” and “Strength of Mind” that looks inside the minds of iconic figures from Ernest Hemingway and Vincent Van Gogh to Woody Allen and Elie Wiesel.  Psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, columnist, bestselling author, and television commentator Gail Saltz has written for the Today Show regularly since 2001, where she appears on camera regularly as the expert in a range of current events and health-related discussions. She has written for and Psychology Today, and she has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Dateline, Anderson Cooper 360, CBS News, and CNN, among others. She is Associate Professor of Psychiatry at The New York Presbyterian Hospital Weill-Cornell School of Medicine, and has a private practice in Manhattan. A New York Times bestselling author, genius runs in her family, as her brother, astronomist Adam Reiss, is one of the youngest people ever to win the Nobel Prize. She lives with her family in Manhattan.