Friday, December 24, 2010

Review: The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World, by Lewis Hyde

I was intrigued when I stumbled across Lewis Hyde's The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World  the other day; it sounded like just my cup of tea, and the blurbs by David Foster Wallace and Margaret Atwood on the front cover were even more alluring.

The book started off strongly, telling me what it would tell me and promising to explore the relationship between the creation of art and the world of commerce--as well as, more aptly in my case, the creation of art that is not appreciated by the world of commerce.

Unfortunately, the book never quite measured up to how awesome I thought it should be--Lewis completely drops the thesis of "art vs. commerce, eros vs. logos" and instead explores the ideas of gifts throughout world cultures, using folklore and fairy tales as his primary source of citation.  While this may be interesting in its own right, I was in no mood to read about usury in the Old Testament and eventually skipped straight to the second half of the book.

The introduction to the second half hinted at what I wanted to read about, and provided some good food-for-thought, but then jumped into an entire chapter on Walt Whitman, followed by a chapter on Ezra Pound, diving, in my opinion, too deep into these two artists' views on the subject and not spending enough time on the views of other writers and artists. 

The conclusion of the novel loops back around and ties back into the ideas that initially attracted to me, but by this point I was so fed up with Lewis' teasing that I had given up all hope for the novel.  I am incredibly disappointed.

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