Nick's Reviews > The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World

The Gift by Lewis Hyde
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's review
Nov 27, 2008

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Read in November, 2008

I tried to like 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 his/her 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various aspects of what is after all a pretty simple concept for pages, weaving in fairy tales, ethnography (much of it outdated or inaccurate), and random commentary about various writers and artists.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 more and less than it aspires to be.
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03/31/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Blythe (new)

Blythe McGarvie Hi Nick, I appreciate your reviews. With so many good books to read, I wonder how a book like this breaks through the clutter, only to disappoint. Did the poets Whitman and Pound expound about gifts? Of all the poets, why these two?
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, your reviews are a gift to all of us.

message 2: by Chris (new) - added it

Chris Thanks for saving me from reading it, but I like what he is saying.

message 3: by Lisa (new) - added it

Lisa Arechiga Danner Three stars indicates that you liked it. Your review seems more like a one star.

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