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The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World (1983)

by Lewis Hyde

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1,1621012,450 (4.07)5
Examines the concept of gifts in anthropological terms and uses this approach to analyze the situation of creative artists and their gifts to society.
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Some interesting ideas about art and the marketplace, but overall not for me. Too much talk about creativity being an ineffable gift from the universe or whatever. ( )
  evenlake | Mar 23, 2021 |
THE GIFT The Gift by Lewis Hyde, is a philosophical treatise on the interconnection between the ”gift” an artist’s creative spirit, a “gift” an object proffered to another and the act of “giving” a work of art. The author looks to anthropology and folk tales, to propose the circuit model: an artist creates a physical object, shares that item with another individual who briefly enjoys the entity, then passes the relic on to another, who repeats the process, etc. The archetypal token may or may not eventually return to the primary donor. Or the initial giver may receive an alternate present. A deeper set of discussions involves the impact of capitalism on talent. Should music, a painting or poem be given freely to all? If the artifact is sold, does consumerism taint the value of the artistry? Should the composer, the water colorist and the writer be constrained to a life of poverty? I find this discourse intriguing because firstly, this book was given to me as a gift by dear neighbors. Secondly, I shall follow the premise of circulation by sending this tome to a family member who operates a lending library from her garage. The Gift will live in my memory, yet have a life beyond my dusty bookshelf. And finally, I as an author, just published my first book. I have used my talent, i.e., gift, to create by an artistic means, and now am in the process of marketing my poetry volume. My solution to Hyde’s questions is to endeavor to always labor to produce worthy writing to submit to our capitalist society. ( )
  JL_Huffman | Feb 15, 2021 |
This book is a multi course meal. Not a snack. Not dessert. It asks big questions about art and provides historical context for how we got to where we are today. It's not a I sat down and read it in a day sort of book either. You need time to digest all the ideas explored. If you are an artist or want to become one, however, it's required reading ( )
  Colleen5096 | Oct 29, 2020 |
It's certainly a well thought out book. The problem I have with it is that there's a lot of repetition and padding that could have been left out. Get to the essence of the idea. Longer than a magazine article, shorter than this book by at least half. ( )
  billycongo | Jul 22, 2020 |
An uneven but enlightening book -- part one relates the history of gift exchange, as contrasted against market exchange. The second looks at two significant American poets -- Whitman and Pound, and how their virtues and flaws can be filtered though the lends of the Gift. This is not a practical book for the working artist, Hyde says as much himself in the afterword, but rather a meditation on boundary -- because so often, it is the creation and demolition of boundaries that defines how we see art, commerce, and the social world in general. For anyone with a gut feeling that there are certain things whose value is poorly measured by market value, and who seeks language to define this ex-market value, Hyde's language of gift exchange could be a framework to investigate, and this book is recommended. ( )
1 vote Aaron.Cohen | May 28, 2020 |
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Epigraph
O wonderful! O wonderful! O wonderful! I am food! I am food! I am food! I eat food! I eat food! I eat food! My name never dies, never dies, never dies! I was born first in the first of worlds, earlier than the gods, in the belly of what has no death! Whoever gives me away has helped me the most! I, who am food, eat the eater of food! I have overcome this world! He who knows this shines like the sun. Such are the laws of the mystery! Taittiri-ya Upanishad
You received gifts from me; they were accepted. But you don't understand how to think about the dead. The smell of winter apples, of hoarfrost, and of linen. There are nothing but gifts on this poor, poor earth. Czeslaw Milosz
Dedication
For my parents. "What is good is given back"
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When the Puritans first landed in Massachusetts, they discovered a thing so curious about the Indians' feelings for property that they felt called upon to give it a name.
Preface: Book salesmen find it handy to have a ten-second description of each title when they go into a bookstore to pitch the product.
Introduction: At the corner drugstore my neighbors and I can now buy a lline of romantic novels written according to a formula developed through market research.
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Examines the concept of gifts in anthropological terms and uses this approach to analyze the situation of creative artists and their gifts to society.

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