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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 24 April 2009
The cover of this edition is a little misleading, with the heart and all the blurbs. The fact is that so many people over the years have stumbled on it, and loved it in a quiet way. The blurbs have been earned along over 20 years, reader by reader. I, for, instance, was assigned to read it in a class at NYU after the teacher said that HE had found it by accident on a remainder table.

Hyde wrote this book as a relatively young man, at the beginning of his career. He was a poet himself, trying to puzzle out the tangle of making emotional and spiritual needs fit the economic needs of existence. He includes some of his own intriguing literary research, but the book does not pretend to be the final word on anything. What it is is simply a thoughtful, academically-thorough writer saying what anyone who believes in art and creativity as a way of life wishes someone would say, with authority. That there is value in what they do, and there is perhaps danger in not doing it.

However, if the times we live in now - the way we have to live and work driven by economics and mass market culture - simply suit you just fine - in that case the book will probably not speak to you at all.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 12 February 2009
... but this book has come up in my daily life again and again as I've begun reading it. (NB: I am reviewing as a graduate student studying Painting)

Given to me by a friend (doing his history PhD. at UVA) a couple weeks ago, we recently had a conversation that went something to the effect of "yeah, it's like Hyde takes these things I've given thought to before, but pushes them about 10 steps beyond anywhere I'd have gotten without INTENSIVE research." Like all great cultural artifacts, this book does a ton of legwork to give your thoughts on giving, creativity, and the social purpose of "what we do" a huge push, and really has nudged my brain into a valuable understanding of myself.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not touting this as "self-help" or an "answer" in any way, as it poses as many questions as it does offer possible solutions or reasons for things. And I truly loathe all forms of self-help. But like a film or conversation or piece of artwork, it re-frames and problematizes issues with market economies, the struggle of a creative person in a modern (capitalist) world, and more personally, self-confidence and a faith in what you're doing.

It may help you find ways to be a better person, it may just re-arrange some puzzle pieces, and maybe you're already a savant and will have gotten already out of your life experience what Hyde offers you here, to which I'd simply say "well done." But I don't think the book is a waste of time. The first 80 or so pages are a bit direct, and drag a bit, but as painful as a historical backdrop COULD be, at least he tells a number of interesting stories and fables to keep the need for immediate gratification satiated.

I think the negative reviews I've read here are either from readers unwilling to take the time to properly unpack Hyde's work, or too impatient to relax into it. Further, Hyde is not just a 'quack,' he spends decades researching his material and is a well-respected historian.

It's the first book I've been excited about reading in a long time.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
This fascinating book on the subject of the creative gift is a must for anybody working in the arts, whatever their discipline, and for those who appreciate the arts, especially books. This is a slow, systematic trawl through what it means to be gifted, to share and to keep the creative flame alive. Righly this book is described as a modern classic. As a writer myself, I shall return to it again and again. The differentiation between gifts and commodities is timely. I have myself recently written on the value we put on words and the modern concept of the 'free giveaway', and have benefited from being able to draw on Lewis Hyde's 'The Gift' in making my point. I'm delighted to provide this lovely book with its first review.
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Originally published in 1979 as The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property and now published in England for the 1st time is a book which in my view is one of the best books - ever! Why, because it speaks directly to you about what makes us tick as human beings, what we do for love and what for money. By studying gift economies in the Pacific which show that gifts link people and commerce separates them and then taking an amazing jump through numerous cultural, spiritual and commercial universes helps give you a coherent view of the world. It then awakens interest in every area of art and human endeavour with wonderful readable prose. This is truly the book to have on your desert island and to give as a gift to everyone you know. Along with Epictetus's "the Art of Living" its all I need.
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45 of 52 people found the following review helpful
on 15 April 2008
I keep looking at the cover blurbs, looking at the book, looking back...

Pages 1 to 145 (out of 285, not including the afterword) is a summary of anthropological studies of gift giving in different cultures, and of examples of folk tales which have morals about reciprocity (for example the elves and the shoemaker) and sharing. Message: gift exchange has always been massively important in human culture. So far, almost nothing about the creative spirit and transforming the world.

Pages 146 to 162: 'Commerce and the creative spirit'. OK so now we're getting into it, interesting quotes from Pinter, Roethke, Snyder, Ginsberg. This 16 pages seems to be the start of the main theme, but then...

Pages 163 to 218: A biographical sketch of Whitman, focusing 'on how his nursing during the war opened him to love'.
Pqges 218 to 275: An exposition of Ezra Pound's dingbat economic theories and advocacy of facism and anti-semitism.

The relation of these chapters to the rest of the book seems to rest on the fact that both poets were not mainly attentive to the trappings of worldly success (but neither is Warren Buffet!). There is a strong feeling that he has lectured extensively on both these guys and has basically crowbarred them in. But they make up more than a third of the book.

Last ten pages: kind of a restatement of the introduction, but also a moderation: "I still believe the believe a gift can be destroyed by the marketplace. But I no longer feel the poles of this dichotomy to be so strongly opposed". Now he tells us!

The afterword, written in 2006, is a bunch of disparate stuff: open source, open access journals, Lessig-like copyright issues. all showing gift exchange being alive and well (again, nothing to do with artistic gifts - he bounces between the 2 ideas when convenient).

So why are Geoff Dyer and David Foster Wallace (neither of whom are the types of writer I would associate with this kind of poorly constructed mush) willing to act as salesmen for it? How can canongate say that reading about Pound and facism will 'transform the way you look at the world'?

I keep looking at the cover blurbs, looking at the book, looking back...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 6 February 2010
I tried and failed to read this book about a year ago, finding it too academic, too many digressions, etc. However, I picked it up again a few days ago and I'm transfixed. Having persevered a bit longer to get into it, I'm really loving it. It does go on a bit in parts, but the central idea of the gift having a value that is beyond price and the relevance of that to creativity is for me very inspiring. Just take what you need from it, leave the rest. Not the easiest of reads, but worth trying.
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on 26 July 2015
I’ve not read anything like The Gift. It masquerades as a social history of gifts and gift-giving. It reels off idiosyncratic little biographies of Walt Whitman and Ezra Pound. It jumbles together folk stories and anecdotes and other things that probably only Lewis Hyde himself thinks. The end result is a contorted narrative that leaves you clueless as to how you got to B, whilst wondering where and what the hell A was in the first place.

But! The overall focus is to define what a gift is in terms of artistic creation, and then outline the “disconnect between the practice of art and common forms of making a living.” How a creative type manages to live in a world that does not (cannot?) assign a value to the gift of imagination. Hyde concludes that within capitalist societies the answer is always poverty.

Well, maybe not. After about 350 pages describing how the creative/erotic tendency (read Appoline/Dionysiac tendency if you’ve read your Nietzsche) is throttled by the logical money-mind of capitalism (read Socratic tendency), Hyde decides the two can probably get along with one another after all, just so long as they respect each other’s differences. Confused? Yep.

It’s all a very fancy way of saying, as Nietzsche did with his ‘Birth of Tragedy’ over 100 years earlier, that imaginative energy and commercial energy are essentially different beasts. What Hyde decides, via the example of poor old Ezra Pound, is that there is a point at which the two can communicate and live together in a sort of symbiosis, to the benefit of each. Ultimately, a society that favours commerce and ignores the obscure value of artistic creativity will be left as poor and lifeless as the artist who starves herself in a studio for the sake of dedication to her vision.

So there you go. Throw in some Brothers Grimm stories and a couple of nice pictures of Osiris and you have what Hyde calls a ‘Prophetic Essay’. There’s no tangible advice for how artists can go about getting their paint-stained hands on a grubby wad of cash, but if you want to know why you’re broke and why you should feel justifiably upset about it, then this is the book for you.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 2 October 2012
If you are as fed up a I am about hearing others crow on about their house equity, their fourth night on the champagne, their hyper increased inflated equity on their house and their new promotion while your efforts to interact with your children, hold onto your creativity and inspiration whilst maintaining your self belief are being steamrollered by said people then dip in and out of this FIFTY year old book to refresh your view on what matters. The perfect antidote to Facebook.
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33 of 42 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 10 November 2006
For those who create art without knowing exactly why they are doing it and knowing at the same time that more than likely few people if any at all will appreciate it, Lewis Hyde's The Gift is like a stout walking stick to keep us going on this rocky serpentine path to nowhere. It is indeed a gift and I shall pass it on to others.
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on 3 December 2013
The Gift is such a well crafted treatise on the nature of money and the belief system that it embodies. The system we have at the moment is not the only system we could employ to trade with each other but before we change it we all need to be financially literate and aware of the way the current system has been hi-jacked by a few that doesn't deserve to control the majority of humanity and saddle and ride them like beastes of burden.
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