Hyde’s 1983 book “The Gift,” subtitled “Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World,” argues that inspiration comes to its creator the same way a gift does. Because of this, both the artist and the resulting work itself become uneasy in a market economy. This gift is most comfortable, instead, when it is kept moving — offered or traded — instead of being hoarded or commodified….Over the years, “The Gift” has developed a cult following among writers and artists who rarely lend their names to anything as potentially sentimental as a book on “creativity” — David Foster Wallace, Zadie Smith and Geoff Dyer among them. To Jonathan Lethem, it’s “a life-changer”; video artist Bill Viola calls it “the best book I have read on what it means to to be an artist in today’s economic world.”
Mr. Hyde himself gives a good summary:
The main assumption of the book is that certain spheres of life, which we care about, are not well organized by the marketplace. That includes artistic practice, which is what the book is mostly about, but also pure science, spiritual life, healing and teaching….This book is about the alternative economy of artistic practice. For most artists, the actual working life of art does not fit well into a market economy, and this book explains why and builds out on the alternative, which is to imagine the commerce of art to be well described by gift exchange.
In other words, “Don’t quit your day job, dude.”
I’m not really sure what to say about this book. It just kind of re-affirmed a lot of what I’ve been thinking about making art: that it’s important for me to have a day job, so I can separate work from play, and that the more generous you are with your audience (through blogging, teaching, sharing, etc.) the better off you’ll be as an artist—spiritually and financially. Good companion reading would be Cory Doctorow’s article, “Giving It Away.”
Has anybody else read it? Thoughts?