The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World

The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World

Lewis Hyde

Language: English

Pages: 464

ISBN: 0307279502

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


By now a modern classic, The Gift is a brilliantly orchestrated defense of the value of creativity and of its importance in a culture increasingly governed by money and overrun with commodities. Widely available again after twenty-five years, this book is even more necessary today than when it first appeared. An illuminating and transformative book, and completely original in its view of the world, The Gift is cherished by artists, writers, musicians, and thinkers. It is in itself a gift to all who discover the classic wisdom found in its pages.

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Pound went through it with his red pencil. He thought it was a masterpiece. And why should its author not go on writing such masterpieces? Well, he was working as a clerk in Lloyd’s Bank in London and didn’t have the time. Pound decided to free him. He organized a subscription plan called “Bel Esprit.” The idea was to find thirty people who could chip in fifty dollars each to help support Eliot. Pound chipped in, as did Hemingway, Richard Aldington, and others. Pound threw himself into it,

the crimes that Pound warns us against come down to one: to profit on the alienation of the symbol from the real. “The finance of financiers is largely the juggling of general tickets against specific tickets.” In a corrupt economy the real worth of the creations of man falls every time some crook makes money by a mere manipulation of the market, or worse, makes money out of nothing. “An increasingly large proportion of goods never gets its certificate [of value] …,” says Pound. “We artists have

own worth is not available to him for some reason that is never explained. But then, while he is asleep, it begins to come. The process is always a bit mysterious. You work at a task, you work and work and still it won’t come right. Then, when you’re not even thinking about it, while spading the garden or stepping into the bus, the whole thing pops into your head, the missing grace is bestowed. That’s the elves, the “magic touch” by which our tasks take on life. The process does not end there,

within the drama of our inner lives. Were we to take the characters in a dream as separated powers of the soul, for example, then a gift given in a dream might serve the soul’s integration. To read the Scottish tale “The Girl and the Dead Man” in a similar fashion, the daughter who gives food to the night birds is joined to the spirit of her mother from whom she has parted in fact (while her sisters are estranged from the mother in fact and then in spirit). Gift exchange is the preferred interior

their paths invariably diverge, particularly in groups that figure descent through only one sex. In Africa they say, “Bridewealth is childwealth,” an aphorism that we may take as another response to the question, If the life of a child is a gift, who is the donor?—the answer in this case being that the mother’s clan has given the child to the father’s clan. In other words, the gifts given in marriage are not a return gift for the bride so much as for her eventual children. In patrilineal groups

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