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The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World [Kindle Edition]

Lewis Hyde
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.95
Kindle Price: $11.89
You Save: $5.06 (30%)
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

Discusses the argument that a work of art is essentially a gift and not a commodity.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews


“The best book I know of for talented but unacknowledged creators. . . . A masterpiece.” —Margaret Atwood

“No one who is invested in any kind of art . . . can read The Gift and remain unchanged.” —David Foster Wallace

“Few books are such life-changers as The Gift: epiphany, in sculpted prose.” —Jonathan Lethem

“A manifesto of sorts for anyone who makes art [and] cares for it.” —Zadie Smith

“This long-awaited new edition of Lewis Hyde's groundbreaking and influential study of creativity is a cause for across-the-board celebration.” —Geoff Dyer

From the Trade Paperback edition.

About the Author

Lewis Hyde was born in Boston in 1945 and studied at both Minnesota and Iowa universities. His hugely acclaimed essay, "Alcohol and Poetry: John Berryman and the Booze Talking," in part sprang out of his experiences as an alcoholism counselor, but he is also a highly regarded poet in his own right whose poetry and essays have been widely published. He is a MacArthur Fellow, a former director of creative writing at Harvard and, alongside The Gift, he is the author of the equally acclaimed Trickster Makes This World. He lives in Ohio, where he is completing a third book.

Product Details

  • File Size: 928 KB
  • Print Length: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 25th Anniversary edition (July 1, 2009)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002GKGB00
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #98,613 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
51 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book redefines the "liberal arts" October 3, 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I enjoy reading books that expand my perspective, but this is one of the rare books that has truly altered it, or at least given me notice that alteration is necessary.

What served me best in reading this book was the fact that it was one of only two I brought for a very long trip. This meant that I had plenty of time and less reason to be distracted. With this time I was able to pace myself through a somewhat slow beginning, tolerate the re-telling of some stories with which I was already familiar, and, by the end of Part 1, be willing to write a 4-star review of how amazing it was that Lewis Hyde could have so presciently defined the logic and sensibilities of the free software and free culture movements that would blossom within ten years of the book being published. His telling of the real establishment of capitalism--that begin with Martin Luther rather than Adam Smith, and the concomitant destruction of charitable customs in Western nations provide a far more cogent explanation of both the moral bankruptcy and the actual bankruptcy of globalism than I've heard in more than one hundred hours of NPR news stories. And his explanations are spot-on for what I am seeing as a person who is involved with, and invests in, community development and sustainability. Indeed, I think it would make especially good reading in faith communities that also have a social community mission.

Then Mr. Hyde lets the other shoe drop: "the gift" describes not only the cultural practices that made economies flourish under conditions beyond the abilities or cares of capitalism, but also the human practices that enable the "genius" of creativity to flourish. The depth of his insights are staggering, and in the end they recontextualized a good portion of my own liberal arts education.

I am delighted to have read it, and look forward to applying its lessons to everything I do going forward, starting with buying enough copies to begin giving them away...
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194 of 222 people found the following review helpful
This book has been published under various subtitles since it first appeared in 1983: "Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property", "How the Creative Spirit Transforms the World" and "Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World". None of these quite captures what it really is, and that's probably because the book doesn't know what it really is, either. Lewis Hyde takes obvious delight in his work's ability to defy categorization or the pithy summary. Unique books have that quality. So do many that are poorly written. It took me a while to figure out which kind this is.

Hyde's central theorem - that true art does, and must of its nature, stand outside the market economy, and this therefore presents a serious problem for the artist forced to live in a world increasingly subsumed by the market economy - could have achieved its full elaboration in the space of a single chapter. In the first half of the book we get that, but we also get quite a lot of wide-ranging argument about economics and the traditional tribal life of gift exchange. Not all of this is relevant, but it's all admittedly fascinating. Less fascinating are Hyde's attempts to locate contemporary examples. For example, he argues rather unconvincingly that the scientific community is "a gift community to the extent that its ideas move as gifts". Fair enough, but the extent to which they do in fact move as gifts is negligible. Scientists are among the most egotistical, petty and jealously self-serving academics ever born. Science isn't about sharing ideas, or not only that. It's about promoting "my ideas" and having "my name" forever associated with them. It's about personal prestige and glory.
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Much less than meets the eye October 26, 2012
I received "The Gift" from a very gifted friend as a gift. And indeed, the book is filled to the brim with all manner of cross-references to gifting and gift-exchanging and giftedness, set in opposition to marketing, selling, and getting.

But by the time I finished, I was left wondering what the point was. All this anthropological evidence of ritual gift-giving, the economic history of Europe, the psychological analysis of Whitman & Pond, written by someone who is neither anthropologist, economist, historian or psychologist, and all for what?

Mr. Hyde devotes more than a hundred pages of his book to the subject of usury, as though that were at the root of the problem, and yet here's what's at the bottom of p. 355 (in a footnote! no less) of the final page of his long essay on Pound, just before his Conclusion: "One of Pound's last pieces of writing was a clarification: "Re USURY, I was out of focus, taking a symptom for a cause. The cause is AVARICE."

A "clarification" that Mr. Hyde appears to have ignored throughout his own book, which is indeed out of focus, full of eddies of cloudy, dense, abstruse passages that circle about and seem to be going somewhere, but don't.
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45 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Information about this edition March 1, 2008
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I may do an actual review later after some more reading, but some people may want to know, as I did, what relationship this book has to some other slightly differently named books by Lewis Hyde that were published under starting name "The Gift".

On the copyright page it states: Originally published in hardcover as "The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property" in a slightly different form in the United States by Random House, Inc., New York, and published in paperback in a slightly different form in the United states by Vintage Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York in 1983.

Update #1: This edition has a three page preface from 2007. It also has a 16 page chapter from 2007 entitled "On Being Good Ancestors: Afterword to the Twenty-fifth Anniversary Edition".
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Lewis Hyde has created something that allows one to use ...
Lewis Hyde has created something that allows one to use their own mind in thinking through a relatively unexplored topic. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Cindy Carpenter
5.0 out of 5 stars wow, just wow
You know how some things give you access to underlying rhythm of life?

This book is one of those things.
Published 1 month ago by Luigi
5.0 out of 5 stars I enjoyed it!
This book is a perspective changer. I enjoyed it!
Published 3 months ago by TC Dreyer
5.0 out of 5 stars Exactly as described. Fast shipping. Thank you!
Exactly as described. Fast shipping. Thank you!
Published 4 months ago by Robin Brown
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Read!
I liked the book overall and there were many good points established by the author regarding the overall concept of the artist producing their works as gifts instead of material... Read more
Published 4 months ago by b
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy this book, give it to someone, circulate it widely
Deserves a constellation of stars. I have read this book many times, and just recently read it again, and it is even better than I remembered. Read more
Published 4 months ago by toronto
5.0 out of 5 stars utterly fascinating and brilliant
I allowed myself to do some skimming. That might be necessary in so big a book. Buy when I stopped because I saw something I would be s
Published 4 months ago by beverly
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Simply story that packs a punch!
Published 5 months ago by N E J
4.0 out of 5 stars Art is a Gift, Not a Commodity
"It is an assumption of this book that art is a gift, not a commodity."

Hyde opens his treatise on the nature of Art as a gift with anthropological studies of... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Aniko Carmean
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Beautiful beautiful book
Published 8 months ago by gloria
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