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Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth and Art

4.22  ·  Rating Details ·  1,037 Ratings  ·  142 Reviews
In Trickster Makes This World, Lewis Hyde brings to life the playful and disruptive side of human imagination as it is embodied in trickster mythology. He first visits the old stories—Hermes in Greece, Eshu in West Africa, Krishna in India, Coyote in North America, among others—and then holds them up against the lives and work of more recent creators: Picasso, Duchamp, Gin ...more
ebook, 432 pages
Published August 17th 2010 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 1997)
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Jan 12, 2011 Kirk rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the sorta book you always wish you were able to write. It's thick, learned, full of digressions and personal asides, and the dude even translates the Homeric Hymn to Hermes (say it fast, I dare ya) out of Greek himself. I doubt it's for everyone. The pace can be a tad pokey; I recommend reading a chapter at a time and then setting the tome aside for a bit. Also, I suspect some of the personal stories can come off as self-indulgent. And let's face it, Hyde is an academic, though this book ...more
May 01, 2009 Kerfe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays
If Neil Gaiman and Michael Chabon haven't read this book and borrowed concepts liberally, then they are operating in a parallel universe, mining the same sources. It's a rich and deep vein.

Hyde rambles through the many ways Trickster figures influence human thought and action. The idea of the disruptive as necessary, even sacred, to life, has wide distribution. "...the origins, liveliness, and durability of cultures require that there be space for figures whose function is to uncover and disrupt
Anna L  Conti
The power of this book, for artists, is the overwhelming evidence of our descent from a being more than human, less than divine - one who inhabits the crossroads, crosses boundaries, works the joints, sees more and risks all.
Sep 05, 2013 Kristen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
I enjoy reading about mythology, I think, because I find myths to be resonant, but it's often hard to put my finger on why they seem so significant. In Trickster Makes This World, Hyde examines tricksters from various cultures (Raven, Coyote, Hermes, Krishna, Eshu) and talks about the ways that these figures signify a certain attitude toward life. For Hyde, tricksters embody the ability to act with cunning, turn accidents into opportunities, and subvert those assumptions that are so ingrained th ...more
Feb 05, 2009 Bill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is good for two reasons: 1. It makes anthropolgy super-interesting by giving raunchy examples of devious (and entertaining) beings; Tricksters 2. It exposed me to the idea of guilt and shame cultures, which every educated person should know about - but somehow I went to college for 9 years and never heard of it.

This book is written by a man who was head of creative writing at Harvard, so if you don't have 50k a year to spend on school, this is the next best thing.

Hyde's interpretive framework for trickster mythology is structured more or less as follows:

Gods & Heaven = societal hegemony / capitalists / wealthy 1% / status quo
Trickster = liminal, generative force (culture / ideology) disruptive to status quo
Humans & Earth = subaltern / marginalized / labor / 99% / beneficiaries of trickster mediation

It's a simple, serviceable analytical rubric applied toward some decent comparative mythology ('trickster genealogy') whereby he establishes elements
Aug 29, 2012 Jesse rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Trickster Makes This World starts great, spinning out some of the implications of various Trickster myths, and linking the Trickster archetype to a whole range of folk stories: Coyote, Hermes, Loki, Prometheus, and eventually, Alan Ginsberg, Frederick Douglass, Krishna, and many others. Hyde draws out the subtleties of Trickster's methods and effects, and it makes for entertaining and thought-provoking reading. Unfortunately, the basic messages of transgression, boundary-crossing, marginalizatio ...more
Amanda (Amy) Goode
Trickster Makes This World came to me by way of Emily Levine's TED talk: back in February 2013. I was particularly interested in the notion that "trickster" is a boundary crosser by nature. I read aloud from the book on our travels to and from Little Rock, Arkansas in March 2013- a trip which ended with my husband being fired by the company he had worked for since 1992. Now referred to as the "great upheaval" this was the culminating event of a 3 year per ...more
Nov 03, 2013 Deborah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read the hardcover edition. Great text about how to circumnavigate traps of culture.

And at his mother’s home, Hermes…
slipped sideways through the keyhole,
like fog on an autumn breeze.

The trickster is a boundary-crosser, or brings to the surface a distinction previously hidden from sight. Trickster is the god of the threshold in all its forms.

Chance the rap and slip the trap

poem by ishmael reed about ralph ellison
i am outside of
history. i wish
i had some peanuts; it
looks hungry there in
its cag
Sep 10, 2011 Matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very analytical view of trickster mythology, although I think this is a good thing, because the themes that emerge give a fuller picture of what tricksters are about.
For example, tricksters are obsessed with traps: setting them and escaping them. Just like they're attracted to gates.
There's some application of the trickster mythology to real life people like Frederick Douglass, Maxine Hong Kingston, and Marcel Duchamp (sp?). The real-life figures never seem to match up to the legends
Mar 22, 2007 Brian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
By far my favorite non-fiction book. The power of the book lies in its ability to explain the enduring presence of trickster myths across a number of different cultures by connecting tricksters with the impulse of artistic creation. By relating tricksters to real-life artists, Hyde demonstrates the relevance of ancient myths to the modern world. The book is elegantly written, compelling, and a pleasure to read. I was awestruck the first time I read it.
Mar 04, 2008 Espy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another great book by Lewis Hyde. It's not as exciting as The Gift - but an interesting look at the "trickster" in native cultures and in contemporary life. It appealed to me as a look at the socio-cultural history of people who are Machiavellian types, manipulators, and behind the scenes puppet masters. I think W and Cheney are modern day tricksters.
John Isaacson
Apr 18, 2012 John Isaacson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this before I started joe Campbell's hero with a thousand faces so it blew my mind. Hyde cites multiple examples of trickster characters in different cultures, discusses the social function of tricksters (keep societies flexible and able to adapt), and shows how artists serve a trickster role in society.
Akemi G
Dec 16, 2016 Akemi G rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-nonfiction
Hermes was born in the morning, and by the evening, he was hungry for steak. (Such is the growth of god, you know.) So he sneaks out the house and steals the cows that belong to Apollo (his half brother).

Even though Hermes uses various tricks to cover up his crime, like forcing the cows to walk backwards, Apollo figures it out soon enough and storms to the cave Hermes lives with his mother. He demands Hermes to return the cows, or he'd send him to the underworld. (In other words, he'd kill him.
Feb 06, 2015 Rachel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"He is the spirit of the doorway leading out, and of the crossroad at the edge of town..." (p.6)

"In short, trickster is a boundary-crosser. Every group has its edge, its sense of in and out, and trickster is always there, at the gates of the city and the gates of life, making sure there is commerce...trickster is the creative idiot, therefore, the wise fool, the gray-haired baby, the cross-dresser, the speaker of sacred profanities.....trickster is the mythic embodiment of ambiguity and ambivale
Jan 19, 2017 Ty rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"People have regularly suggested to me that tricky politicians are modern tricksters, but I'm skeptical. It isn't just that their ends are usually too mundane and petty, but that the trickster belongs to the periphery, not to the center. If trickster were ever to get into power, he would stop being trickster. The deceitful politician is a crook, not a culture hero."

A footnote on page 13. This was still in the introduction.
Matthew Richey
Some parts I liked more than others, but a very fun, engaging, enlightening, and interesting read. I may say more later.
John G.
This is one of the most magical, mind expanding, mind-blowing books I've ever read! This book helped me better understand life and my life in particular. I've been doing stand-up comedy for over five years and am also a student of the craft and this book is especially relevant for folks who are interested in subversive and satirical comedy. This book is a deeply spiritual and philosophical work, but not preachy, esoteric or religious at all, in fact, I would say it provides an alternative approa ...more
Sep 25, 2012 Nicola rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hyde is a freewheeling scholar and thinker. He collects trickster myths from various cultures—Native American, African, Greek, Norse, Chinese—and compares them to the work and art of Carl Jung, John Cage, Marcel Duchamp, Frederick Douglas, Allen Ginsberg, Maxine Kingston, to name a few. He can be very personable, relating his dream or a hitchhiking story, and very erudite, geeking out on the paradoxes of lies and truth, the sacred and the profane, appetite and immortality, cunning and chance, to ...more
Mish Middelmann
Jan 18, 2014 Mish Middelmann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I came across this book through the wonderful Kadeisha work of Tamboo ( some years ago. Picking it up now, it feels like an appropriate companion in times of difficult change. It speaks to the complexities and possibility of manifesting change when the world seems overwhelmingly resistant and scary to challenge.

Lewis Hyde explores deeply how mischief, chance and the unexpected are not just a fact of life but essential to our survival and growth. So counter-intuitive when
Apr 26, 2014 Laura rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hyde does a very good job introducing the non-specialist to the world of trickster. He is a fine storyteller, and he draws on an excellent range of tales from a global set of cultures, weaving tales from Ancient Greece and Rome together with indigenous tales from the peoples of North America and Africa. His arguments will not seem particularly revolutionary and new to academics (like myself); for instance, no scholar of Fredrick Douglass will find any surprises here. That Douglass uses trickster ...more
Jeff Van Campen
Oct 24, 2009 Jeff Van Campen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who loves a good story and the story behind the story.
I've always had a bit of a thing for tricksters. My favorite Greek myths always seem to involve Hermes, and I love a good coyote tale.

Trickster Makes This World is an excellent study that tries to get to the bottom of what makes trickster figures so fascinating.

It is excellently researched and well constructed. Lewis Hyde takes us through the various aspects of trickster and explores each of these aspects in depth. In each case it is a fascinating, wide-ranging discussion. Hyde has put together
Mar 25, 2013 Úlfdís rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mythology
This book took me a rather long time to read - partially because I started driving to work and lost my train reading time, and partially because it was particularly chewy!

Hyde brings together quite a collection of thoughts, stories and other information about Trickster Gods, their stories and their role in society and the shaping of our world. I particularly enjoyed his discussion of modern people and how they at times took on the Trickster archetype to change their world. The most notable examp
Nov 29, 2013 Mike rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In my all time favorite Robert Frost poem Directive there is, I believe, a reference to a Trickster figure. Frost writes about a place where one can be “whole again without confusion”. But to get there he says you must let “…a guide direct you / who only has at heart your getting lost.” After reading Trickster Makes this World I have a better understanding of the paradox of having a guide whose purpose is to get you lost. It’s all about balance. The Trickster, mythic or otherwise, can serve a co ...more
Nov 16, 2013 Peter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An old friend read and had recommended this book several years ago. Then I read part of it, but was distracted and laid it aside. But his initial stories about the coyote and the myth of Coyote stayed with me. Years later, over a bourbon with a couple friends, arguing about the motivations, significance and the praise- or blameworthiness of Snowden's leaks, I raised the possibility that he could be interpreted as an incarnation of the Trickster (and the ambiguous values the Trickster represents) ...more
Aug 13, 2016 Nick rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
On one hand, this is really interesting. I loved learning more about tricksters such as Hermes and Loki, who I already knew. It was cool learning about Raven and Coyote and others as well. He explained stories in an interesting way, and related them to modern stuff we can better relate to.

But then it got very repetitive. And after a while, it stopped being about tricksters and turned more into a philosophy book (and a biography on Frederick Douglass). Which is interesting, if that's what I wante
Jan 28, 2010 Steven rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I started this book almost a year ago and kept returning to it in-between other reads, as it is sometimes dense and academic, so I'd read a section and then let myself reflect on it a while before picking it up again. Hyde is a wonderful writer, mixing spot-on interpretations of mythology, personal anecdote and analysis of contemporary artists, such as Marcel Duchamp, Allen Ginsberg and Maxine Hong Kingston, to posit how these transgressive figures work the same way that "trickster" figures work ...more
There are some absolute gems in the course of the book, some passages and ideas I read several times over because they were so compelling and offered so much creative potential. But there were also long sections that felt repetitive and disconnected —sometimes because I wasn't familiar with a story being taken for granted as common knowledge among readers, but other times because new directions were suddenly taken without clear transitions or context. The book often felt more like a notebook tha ...more
Mar 11, 2012 Beth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's taken me about a year to read this, in part because it got packed up in a box while I was living elsewhere, and partly because Hyde doesn't have the most fluid writing style, at least not consistently.
This is an interesting book, and the analysis he provides on the multiple Trickster mythologies of the world are well thought out and well presented, although I'm not entirely sure how much is his work and how much is him re-presenting the work of others; there are an awful lot of pieces where
Mar 27, 2016 robyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
I think... this book is too scholarly for me really, BUT there are places where I was able to sort of hook on to something the author was saying.

Like, the concept of the trickster as a character, moving between two worlds or cultures; stealing, because the act of the gods giving would change things too much. Not necessarily always winning, but always surviving. In most cases, remaining always on the hinge, always on the border or threshold; never moving all the way out into darkness or all the w
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“Better to operate with detachment, then; better to have a way but infuse it with a little humor; best, to have no way at all but to have instead the wit constantly to make one's way anew from the materials at hand.” 13 likes
“There is no way to suppress change…not even in heaven; there is only a choice between a way of living which allows constant, if gradual alterations and a way of living that combines great control and cataclysmic upheavals. Those who panic and bind the trickster choose the latter path. It would be better to learn to play with him, better especially to develop skills (cultural, spiritual, artistic) that allow some commerce with accident, and some acceptance of the changes that contingency will always engender.” 0 likes
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