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Trickster Makes This World

Mischief, Myth, and Art
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Paperback Book
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
August, 2010
$20.00 CAD
Banyen's Description: 

“Lewis Hyde’s The Gift was a marvelous anthropological and literary study of giving, the life energy of a healthy society. Now, after many years of rumination, Hyde has come forth with Trickster Makes This World to disclose the wild, creative genius that breaks up static institutions and saves humanity with archetypal merriment.” —Robert Aitken, author of The Mind of Clover

This groundbreaking investigation into trickster figures (old and new, from Coyote and Hermes to the Monkey King and Brer Rabbit) brings to life the playful and disruptive side of the human imagination as it is embodied in the trickster mythology. Most at home on the road or at the twilight edge of town, tricksters are consummate boundary-crossers, slipping through keyholes, breaching walls, subverting defense systems.

Always out to satisfy their inordinate appetites, lying, cheating, and stealing, tricksters are a great bother to have around, but paradoxically they are also indispensable culture heroes. In North America, Coyote taught the race how to dress, sing, and shoot arrows. In West Africa, Eshu discovered the art of divination so that suffering humans might know the purposes of heaven. In Greece, Hermes the Thief invented the art of sacrifice, the trick of making fire, and even language itself. Hyde revisits these old stories, then holds them up against the life and work of more recent creators: Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp, John Cage, Allen Ginsberg, Maxine Hong Kingston, and others—”the coincidences are fruitful, making us think and see again.”

The old myths say that the trickster made the world as it actually is. Other gods set out to create a world more perfect and ideal, but this world with its complexity and ambiguity, its beauty and its dirt, was trickster’s creation, and the work is not yet finished.

Trickster is the archetype who attacks all archetypes. He is the character in myth who threatens to take the myth apart. He is an “eternal state of mind” that is suspicious of all eternals, dragging them from their heavenly preserves to see how they fare down here in this time-haunted world.


Every group has its edge, its sense of in and out, and trickster is always there, at the gates of the city and the gates of life, making sure there is commerce.... Trickster is the creative idiot, therefore, the wise fool, the gray-haired baby, the cross-dresser, the speaker of sacred profanities. Where someone’s sense of honorable behavior has left him unable to act, trickster will appear to suggest an amoral action, something right/wrong that will get life going again.

“Lewis Hyde is the most subtle, thorough, and brilliant mythologist we now have. This book is gorgeous.” —Robert Bly


Publisher’s Description: 

In "Trickster Makes This World," Lewis Hyde brings to life the playful and disruptive side of human imagination as it is embodied in trickster mythology. He first visits the old stories—Hermes in Greece, Eshu in West Africa, Krishna in India, Coyote in North America, among others—and then holds them up against the lives and work of more recent creators: Picasso, Duchamp, Ginsberg, John Cage, and Frederick Douglass. Twelve years after its first publication, "Trickster Makes This World"—authoritative in its scholarship, loose-limbed in its style—has taken its place among the great works of modern cultural criticism.
This new edition includes an introduction by Michael Chabon.

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