NEW The Gift Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World ¾ Lewis Hyde

Untered Combined with the misleading jacket description I don t think I ve ever had a disappointing or frustrating experience from a book that I thought was going to be pretty straightforwardIt would have been accurately subtitled not Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World but An Ethnographic Study Through the Works of Whitman and Pound If that subtitle still appeals to you by all means read the book but at east now you have a accurate perception of what you re in for I see now that earlier versions were subtitled Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property which is both accurate though still annoyingly vague and Who's There on Halloween? less interesting As it is the current subtitle is only directly addressed in the concluding section for a total of 20 or so pages out of than 300As I was reading this reminded me of both Robert Bly s Iron John and Radin s The Trickster When I stopped to examine this feeling I realized that all three books are written by poetsfolklorists and they all use the sameoose ephemeral arguments to support their theses They also all ostensibly treat a very fascinating subject matter but get bogged down in esoteric mumbo jumbo and poetic fluffiness Jurisdiction leaving a rational reader disappointed Some examples from this oneThe tribe and its gift are separate but they are also the same there is aittle gap between them so they may breathe into each other and yet there is no gap at all for they share one breath one meal for the two of them 46If we pause now to contrast the esemplastic cognition of imagination to the analytic cognition of Hip Pocket Sleaze: The Lurid World of Vintage Adult Paperbacks logos thought we will be in a position to see one of the connections between the creative spirit and the bond that gift establishes 196The first passage above says pretty much nothing and the second one says something that I m not going to take the time to figure outEssentially those passages are a microcosm of the book The central thesis as finally addressed head on in the conclusion is that it s difficult for artists to make aiving because their gifts aren t appropriately valued on the commercial market The fact that this is one of those no duh statements perhaps explains why Hyde had to fill up the book with so much irrelevant fluff In fact the entire 1st half of the book is dedicated to a tedious tracing of the anthropological history of gift exchange which only appears to relate in a very background way to what the cover of the book told me it was going to be about As I said frustratingIn addition the rational non Mookie: Life, Baseball, and the '86 Mets literary arguments that Hyde does propose demonstrate either a misunderstanding or a misrepresentation of facts that arouses suspicion toward the rest of his argumentation For example on p150 Hyde attempts to euate the simultaneous group reinforcement and other repulsion of Mosaic usuryaws with the biological cell membrane but does not accurately portray the membrane making the argument useless for anyone with an intermediate understanding of biology and misleading for anyone else Later ess forgivably he s not a science teacher after all he pens the following footnote talking about Pound s anti semitism and the Hermes archetypeThis figure who is good with money but a ittle tricky is always treated as a foreigner even if his family has been around for centuries Often he actually is a foreigner of course He is invited in when the nation needs trade and he is driven out or murdered when nationalism begins to flourish the Chinese out of Vietnam in 1978 the Japanese out of China in 1949 the Yankees out of South America and Iran the East Indians out of Uganda under Idi Amin and the Armenians out of Turkey in 1915 16 The outsider is always used as a catalyst to arouse nationalism and when times are hard he will always be its victim as wellThe problems with this passage are many and outrageous

Not Least Of Which 
least of which that he counts Americans in South AmericaIran and the Japanese in China as victims Let s keep in mind that the Chinese kicked out the Japanese after the Clawback latter had invaded the former in WWII and committed uncountable atrocities And somehow the idea of South America and Iran inviting Americans in to help out with their economy before they turned on the innocent helpers doesn t uite ring true So with only a basic understanding of history I have destroyed 25 of his supporting examples This suggests I could probably do the same if I knew anything about the other examples or perhaps with a short wikipedia search My point is that Hyde is either profoundly ignorant about what he s arguing or he s makingazy arguments without supposing that people will realize Deliberately attempting to obfuscate is another possibility however improbable Either way it s shockingly inept and calls into uestion the validity of a ot of his book It also further corroborates my opinion that the book doesn t say much at all rationally speaking Sure it may make some nifty artistic and intuitive points but the non erotic parts of the argument are uniformly suspect acking any kind of academic or scientific rigorOn the plus side I Sugar in the Raw: Voices of Young Black Girls in America learned to avoid books written by poets or by poetry enthusiasts I am way too rational and analytical to appreciateiterature based arguments so readers of this review can perhaps take it with a grain of salt Also I enjoyed Cooking for Company learning about theives of Whitman and Pound even if I don t think Hyde did a good job of incorporating them into the overall book The chapters on usury and woman giving were also somewhat interesting For anyone familiar with Robert Pirsig s Lila I just re read it Pound s Eluesinian fecundity v Confucian order exactly mirrors Pirsig s Dynamic v Static uality Or I suppose it s vice versaUnfortunately the majority of the book is boring and its value doubtful It strikes me as one of those that artist types Empire of Sin like because it reinforces their flouting of conventionalrational standards and values Perhaps its popularity is due to coming at a time when there wereess people saying these things I don t know But it doesn t appear to say anything ground breaking nor offer any original solutions to ease the tension between the artist and a monetary civilization DisappointingI ve seen that some people find this book inspirational I M AN ASPIRING WRITER AND WAS an aspiring writer and was for that but was Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China left in the cold The most creatively inspiring book I ve read continues to be strangely enough Stephen King s On Writing I highly recommend it to any writerooking for a kick in the pants Tied for second are John Fante s Ask the Dust Colin Wilson s The Outsider and coincidentally Leaves of GrassNot Bad Reviewsblakerosser1 I wanted to ike this book but ended up hating it thoroughly by to ike this book but ended up hating it thoroughly by time I was done with it His exploration of gift economies is one sided and glosses over most of their problematic aspects a text I read by a feminist author Chicken, Chicken, Duck! last year pointed out that in old school gift economies women were often used as gifts and traded in the same way as a form of homosocial bonding Hyde refuses to acknowledge theseess pleasant aspects of gift economies focusing instead on everything that he can use to support his thesis namely a naive HEY GUYS CREATIVE WRITING IS AWESOMEHis conflation of the various meanings of the word gift is also problematic Most of the book hinges on his ability to alternately interpret gift both as a it. Han when it first appeared An illuminating and transformative book and completely original in its view of the world The Gift is cherished by artists writers musicians and thinkers It is in itself a gift to all who discover the classic wisdom found in its page. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah Three weeks People I am done with school in THREE WEEKS I felt I needed to write a review to counter the negative ones here Any book that calls the zeitgeist into uestion is bound to draw confusion and pushback I ve bought this book three times because I give it to friends who don t always give it back That s okay The Gift was and is a profound touchstone for me and for an older generation of writers who knew Hyde from his Minnesota days I recommend it to artists who wonder how their gifts may be appeciated for their worth if not always always their fair value in a modern economy Some of the reviewers gripes probably owe to the fact this is a dense dense book Hyde s ideas build and spiral through varied concrete examples drawn from anthropology open source programming poetry and pure versus applied sciences Hyde also shows balance he recognizes that fees for services are useful when we simply don t care about a ong term relationship with the producer but a certain spirit is ost too in the case of so many dead objects we bought but which now crowd the attic Having just reread the book again I can say it not only has aged well but the Great Recession and the rise of the sharing economy Move Over, Victoria--I Know the Real Secret: Surrendering the Lies That Bind You to the God Who Frees You lend an even greater resonance in fact the anniversary material in the newer edition isess striking than the original For me the most moving chapters are those in the second half on Whitman and Pound who illustrate how the gift can circulate to the benefit of a nation or traded for willpower Slo Mo! lead to soul s rot Truly artists should buy the book just for the cautionary tale on Pound Here and there the book s prose rises to aevel of poetry that astonishes me than on the first reading where I was just wrestling with the ideas and their implications This book saves me from choosing will over gift I chose this edition because the new one Poor Mrs. Rigsby looksike a Valentine s day card I expected it to be perfumed inside The Gift is a Pirates, Ships, and Sailors large and pretty messy book to its credit but the main thrusts are 1 To use detailed analyses of folk tales anthropology and economic theory to come up with a model for human interaction that parallels commodity exchange but is based around gift giving and 2 To give detailed readings of Whitman and Pound two poets whose careers andives Hyde sees standing at an intersection of gift giving and commerce in art and ife I found the first part of this mildly boring and the second part fascinating Especially the Pound stuff Hyde s parable made me uncomfortable Pound is important to me and I take assesment of his work personally especially when it has to do with his ideas about energy and creativity Hyde s reading is moving and persuasive it really is a fable Through it Pound is transformed from a man who knew best how to organize himself so that poetry could reinvent itself through him into someone who misunderstood the nature of creativity so deeply that it stunted and withered his most important projects What a transformation But I don t know if I m totally happy with it Here s the significance of the argument for me anyway how we understand Pound is how we understand creation in the 20 21st century Pound was a strategist of energy before he was anything else he worked constantly in and outside himself to create that ground which would allow his "vision to come into the world And this is Hyde s point at east he "to come into the world And this is Hyde s point at east he He failed to himself to othersmaybe not Pound excited and angered a huge amount of peopleIn order to explain this failure Hyde imagines a creative imagination that is divided into two parts will and inspiration will into two parts will and inspiration Will mental commerce sterile eualizing while inspiration is the imagination s euivalent of the gift free given expansive Hyde wants us to embrace the subconscious and unwilled aspects of the creative process this as he sees it is where the magic happens So forcing things only eaves you sterile and fragmentary see the CantosI agree with this for the most part but find the set up kind of a red herring Much better is how Gombrowicz describes it in his diariesThe whole trick though is that while surrendering yourself passively to the work and A Boy in Winter letting it create itself you do not even for a moment stop controlling it Your rule in this matter must be I do not know where the work willead me but wherever it Frost at Midnight leads me I have to express myself and satisfy myselfAll the problems that a work being born and blindly creating itself suggest to you problems of ethics style form intellect must be solved with the full participation of your most alert consciousness and with maximum realism as this is a game of compensation the crazier fantastic inventive unpredictable irresponsible you are the sober controlled responsible you must be Diariesovely too that all great artists no matter how experimental their writing sound utterly and even boringly healthy when they talk about their work The artist is always pragmatic that is always concerned with what worksThe answer to Hyde s argument an answer that he sort of kind of admits in the book s conclusion not a new answer is that the mind is a single piece and to over emphasize inspiration is just as myopic as thinking a book can be a blueprint whose spaces you have to fill in The mind may be diverse but it makes a unity So back to Pound s failure and how he did itPound failed Hyde argues because after a certain point he became all will He organized and organized but the visions stayed manifold and to him this was a failure he wanted to fix the big thing and thought that doing this would allow even Princess Baby, Night-Night little things to come into existence He was trying to do what Gombro asks but he couldn t Why can t we Is it impossible and if so just for Americans Or for everybody Which brings the uestion back to fables Pound succeeds in one type of fable but fails in another His art and hisife form a single thing that you can read from the outside but the thing is freuently disharmonious and artless it has to be in order to work in the The Pentagon Papers: Making History at the Washington Post larger fable but didn t have to be shouldn t have been in order to work as art His details freuently clutter and his abstractions freuently clog Whole two hundred page swaths of his work are unreadable A corollary to this could be that many times a good and forceful artist who fails as a great artist succeeds as a great fable Great artists are themselves always great fables but the moral of their work is always the same I AM THAT I AMPart goodpart bad artists are much interesting because they succeed in their failures They know they didn t uite get itThe Gift occasionally soundsike Thoreau occasionally ike some guy sitting in his basement One of those books that makes you not comfortable about your failed artisthood so much as charged I immediately wanted to make things but then remembered that I am not really crafty or energetic enough to do this The title of this book is the most egregious misnomer I ve ever enco. Hanged” David Foster WallaceBy now a modern classic The Gift is a brilliantly orchestrated defense of the value of creativity and of its importance in a culture increasingly governed by money and overrun with commodities This book is even necessary today I picked this up at a bookstore where I was killing some time before an appointment I read the preface and the introduction and wept through them both I eft for my appointment thinking I d have to find a used copy of this book sometime and read it A couple of hours On a Cold Road: Tales of Adventure in Canadian Rock later I had to go back and buy it because I was still thinking about it So itit a fire under me for sure Whether or not it fulfilled the promise of that fire is still up for debate The preface and the intro are really easy reading and point at some really salient issues The actual text kind of does a dance around the issue at hand We re supposed to read the author s analysis of gift giving as a metaphor for the artistic experience and make the connections ourselves I suspect And sometimes I could Other times it was such a stretch and the academic style of writing so alienating I could barely manage to pay attention et alone make expansive inferences He s on to something about value and the arts and an alternate currencymarkets but I onged for solutions not just examples of the schism in culture that creates market driven art The iterary analysis of Whitman and Pound were fascinating sure but for me didn t really help me understand all that much about art and the modern world Mostly I walked away from that section feeling pretty depressed that two of our great authors ived in poverty for most of their Nini lives Also Ieft with a fear that my sense of moral outrage about the treatment of artists in this culture could I Love My Dad (Disney Princess) lead me to aife Flight, Vol. 7 like Ezra Pound s and a fascination with fascism I mean no I m not going to become a fascistike Pound but somehow Hyde s arguments make me feel how easily a person could slide down that slippery slope All of which eaves the uestion hanging about how to balance the gifts of art artists et al But paragraphs ike these show up too and this is what stokes the fireEvery culture offers its citizens an image of what it is to be a man or woman of substance There have been times and places in which a person came into his or her social being through the dispersal of his gifts the big man or big woman being that one through whom the most gifts flowed The mythology of a market society reverses the picture getting rather giving is the mark of a substantial person and the hero is self possessed self made So ong as these assumptions rule a disuieting sense of triviality or worthlessness even will nag the man or woman who abors in the service of a gift and whose products are not adeuately described as commodities When we reckon our substance by our acuisitions the gifts of the gifted man are powerless to make him substantialAnd this uote from May SartonThere is only one real deprivation I decided this morning and that is not to be able to give one s gift to those that one Camp Rex loves most The gift turned inward unable to be given becomes a heavy burden even sometimes a kind of poison It is as though the flow ofife were backed up True true and true But how do we fix itThere are gems in the straw of this book It s absolutely worth reading Just put your University hat on before you do and don t expect any clear answers either Now in its 25th anniversary edition this book is as current and necessary as it was in 1979 A creative mix of ethnography folklore economics the gift economy the market economy the vegetable money economy and iterary criticism Whitman and Pound all seen through the prism of art as a gift and the artist as a gifted person Keen observations are sprinkled throughout on how an artist needs to protect from market forces that space where the artwork is conceived essentially a gift and only when it s finished and it s a true expression of hisher gift then make the transition to how that gift makes its way into the world a market economy an agent or sometimes not at all In other words how to be an artist and nurture your gift and not go crazy trying to survive in a market economy I m not explaining it very well but if you are "an artist or an artisan or care about art in this modern world read this book Lots of "artist or an artisan or care about art in this modern world Read This Book Lots Of And Lots To Chew Over this book Lots of and ots to chew over favorite uoteHyde describes making art as a abor as opposed to worklabor on the other hand sets its labor as opposed to worklabor on the other hand sets its pacewriting a poem raising a child developing a new calculus resolving a neurosis invention in all forms these are aborsAnd When Dads Don't Grow Up labor because it sets its own pace is usually accompanied by idlenesseisure even sleep While Hyde has given his readers the gift of a Miles from Kara lens through which to view artistic endeavors this could have been done in about 50 pages not 385 This book reminded me of a typical college freshman essay I want to write about everything And therefore nothing is really achieved While the gift metaphor is interesting it s too vague to help in any but the most theoretical way This could have been a tight essay aiterary work Pee Wee Scouts treasury (Pee Wee Scouts, like a novel or short story or a scholarly work on the anthropological history of gift giving or even a series of biographies of writers Since Hyde attempts all of these things he achieves none well But if it took him 385 pages to discover that HIS true gift is as an artistic coop organizer God Bless Him The world has plenty of writers but very few people with the talent to help them write I tried toike this book since it had come so highly recommended and it was in a 25th anniversary edition If it has been in print all those years there must be something to it right Nope First of all it s badly structured The first half is an extended discussion of the concept of gifts vs paying for things in ancient vs modern societies Once you get the basic point that especially older societies exchanged goods and services as gifts not for money and that Hyde thinks that s a better way to do it then you ve got the idea He says that an artist basically has to straddle the world of gifts because hisher art is best thought of as a gift both received and given to the world and the world of commerce gotta pay the rent The second half of the book then talks about Whitman and Pound two worthy poets but hardly connected in any real or useful sense to the foregoing gift discussion Second and my other main complaint about the book is that Hyde beats the gift horse to death He defines ponders muses and ruminates about various aspects of what is after all a pretty simple concept for pages weaving in fairy tales ethnography much of it outdated or inaccurate and random commentary about various writers and artists It s a maddening frustrating book that is simultaneously and ess than it aspires to be G blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. “A manifesto of sorts for anyone who makes art and cares for it” Zadie Smith“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 unc. The Gift Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World