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The Gift: How the Creative Spirit Transforms the World (Canons) Paperback – 6 Dec 2012

3.8 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Canons; Main - Canons Imprint Re-issue edition (6 Dec. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0857868470
  • ISBN-13: 978-0857868473
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 117,450 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"A masterpiece . . . THE GIFT is the best book I know of for the aspiring young, for talented but unacknowledged creators, or even for those who have achieved material success and are worried that this means they've sold out. It gets at the core of their dilemma: how to maintain yourself alive in a world of money, when the essential part of what you do cannot be bought or sold"

"Reminds us of our cultural gifts and our responsibilities to them . . . a manifesto of sorts . . . In a climate where we know the price of everything and the value of nothing, Lewis Hyde offers us an account of those few, essential aspects of human experience that transcend commodity, or that will do so, if you let them"

"Helpful, beautiful and profound. It will change the way you look at everything" (Independent on Sunday)

"Buy several copies for yourself and the rest of your friends interested in, well, anything . . . Hyde is far more than an astute cultural critic; he's an original and important thinker. Pass it on"

"Few books are such life-changers as THE GIFT"

"Tiger balm for tired minds" (Sunday Times)

"No one who is invested in any kind of art, in questions of what real art does and doesn't have to do with money, spirituality, ego, love, ugliness, sales, politics, morality, marketing, and whatever you call 'value', can read THE GIFT and remain unchanged"

"Persuasive and fascinatingly illustrated, The Gift profits immensely from the modesty and unpretentiousness of Hyde's writing and the fascinated good nature with which he expounds his propositions" (Independent on Sunday)

"Brilliant - by the time he is done he has folded language, culture and the very habit of being human into his ken" (New Yorker)

"This wonderful, erudite and quirky book is a way of re-establishing a link with our imaginative life"

Book Description

Introduced by Margaret Atwood

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
... 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.
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Format: Paperback
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.
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Format: Hardcover
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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