Seth Mann's Reviews > The Gift

The Gift by Lewis Hyde
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really liked it

Persevere through this book and I believe you will be rewarded with some interesting observations about human nature and how we perceive one another - in particular, you will find new perspectives on who is considered an "insider" or "outsider" to your group and how you treat them in kind.

You will also be introduced universally shared human traits - in this case, gift-giving. You will learn why there is much more to the practice of gift-giving than you ever thought possible and that the manipulation of this practice, through religion, economics and forces of history, has effected the very way we think and act.

You will view art differently and see how its creation, distribution or subjugation binds us or sets us apart.

You will find mythology, poetry, anthropology, and history used to create a rich and complex analysis of art, gift-giving, economics, politics and group dynamics. The book is, indeed, academic in nature and some parts were hard to get through (a familiarity with basic anthropological principles might help, but is not necessary). Some parts of the book are uneven, or start to feel too "preachy" or even metaphysical. And Hyde's close-reading of Whitman and Pound, while fascinating, also (in my opinion) reveal a clear bias for Whitman. This would be fine if not for the fact that the analysis of Whitman is far more cohesive than the one on Pound.

But, there are gems in here. Sentences and paragraphs that provide all too rare moments of clarity or insight (I actually wrote "wow" in the margins a few times).

These parts, along with the whole book, shine a light on our shared universal experience that threads us all together, through time, into a cohesive (yet often messy) human experience.
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Reading Progress

November 17, 2008 – Shelved
Started Reading
December 16, 2008 – Finished Reading

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