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Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth, and Art

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Trickster Makes This World solidifies Lewis Hyde's reputation as, in Robert Bly's words, "the most subtle, thorough, and brilliant mythologist we now have." In it, Hyde now brings to life the playful and disruptive side of human imagination as it is embodied in trickster mythology. He first revisits the old stories--Hermes in Greece, Eshu in West Africa, Krishna in India, Trickster Makes This World solidifies Lewis Hyde's reputation as, in Robert Bly's words, "the most subtle, thorough, and brilliant mythologist we now have." In it, Hyde now brings to life the playful and disruptive side of human imagination as it is embodied in trickster mythology. He first revisits 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 life and work of more recent creators: Picasso, Duchamp, Ginsberg, John Cage, and Frederick Douglass. Authoritative in its scholarship, loose-limbed in its style, Trickster Makes This World ranks among the great works of modern cultural criticism.


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Trickster Makes This World solidifies Lewis Hyde's reputation as, in Robert Bly's words, "the most subtle, thorough, and brilliant mythologist we now have." In it, Hyde now brings to life the playful and disruptive side of human imagination as it is embodied in trickster mythology. He first revisits the old stories--Hermes in Greece, Eshu in West Africa, Krishna in India, Trickster Makes This World solidifies Lewis Hyde's reputation as, in Robert Bly's words, "the most subtle, thorough, and brilliant mythologist we now have." In it, Hyde now brings to life the playful and disruptive side of human imagination as it is embodied in trickster mythology. He first revisits 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 life and work of more recent creators: Picasso, Duchamp, Ginsberg, John Cage, and Frederick Douglass. Authoritative in its scholarship, loose-limbed in its style, Trickster Makes This World ranks among the great works of modern cultural criticism.

30 review for Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth, and Art

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kirk

    This is the sorta book you always wish you were able to write. It's thick, learned, full of digressions and personal asides, and the dude even translates the Homeric Hymn to Hermes (say it fast, I dare ya) out of Greek himself. I doubt it's for everyone. The pace can be a tad pokey; I recommend reading a chapter at a time and then setting the tome aside for a bit. Also, I suspect some of the personal stories can come off as self-indulgent. And let's face it, Hyde is an academic, though this book This is the sorta book you always wish you were able to write. It's thick, learned, full of digressions and personal asides, and the dude even translates the Homeric Hymn to Hermes (say it fast, I dare ya) out of Greek himself. I doubt it's for everyone. The pace can be a tad pokey; I recommend reading a chapter at a time and then setting the tome aside for a bit. Also, I suspect some of the personal stories can come off as self-indulgent. And let's face it, Hyde is an academic, though this book is only theoretical when the doc rolls up his sleeves and starts getting signifiggy with it with MC Umberto Eco and DJ Jazzy Jung. Folks cool with those tics may object to the cross-cultural synthesis, which seeks out parallels between Greek, Native American, and African-Am (Zulu!) trickster stories---today most culturographers (to create my own school of criticism) emphasize differences and dichotomies. All these equivocations aside, I still say it's a fascinating, educational read. I'm a huge fan of Hyde's earlier book THE GIFT, even though the style in that one is probaby even more off-putting. Each chapter seizes upon a certain trait of tricksters (hunger, lying) or an image associated with them (threshholds) and explores the imaginative implications. The point ultimately is to explore how resonant trickster figures are for a culture: they represent the "disruptive imagination" that inverts, erases, and overturns conventional wisdoms. Hyde then seeks to illustrate these characteristics with what might strike some as a fairly random sample of modern examples. It's hard for me to think of another work that invokes Marcel Duchamp and Frederick Douglass or John Cage and Claude Levi-Strauss in the same breath. Sometimes the assertions can be a little fuzzy; I'm still trying to figure out the reading of Douglass. In other cases (Ginsberg) it's almost a little too easy to view them as Hermes types. Still, for those who have the patience, Trickster is like following a brilliant mind make synaptic connections. Again, it's the type of book it would be fun to try if one had the reputation that Lewis Hyde does. And, in an age of PowerPoint listcicles, it's refreshing to jump into something loose and baggy. It gives one's brain its own room to breathe.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mir

    Tricksters are on the road. They are in-between. Tricksters are change-agents who both disrupt and create. Tricksters are always looking for the door. Tricksters break artificial restrictions. This is a fantastic but not entirely trustworthy book. It is thoughtful and thought-provoking. I didn't agree with all his conclusions or inclusions, but I enjoyed considering them and got something out of even the parts I disagreed with. You'll also probably find some unfamiliar myths and texts to research fu Tricksters are on the road. They are in-between. Tricksters are change-agents who both disrupt and create. Tricksters are always looking for the door. Tricksters break artificial restrictions. This is a fantastic but not entirely trustworthy book. It is thoughtful and thought-provoking. I didn't agree with all his conclusions or inclusions, but I enjoyed considering them and got something out of even the parts I disagreed with. You'll also probably find some unfamiliar myths and texts to research further. Highly recommended. Read with an open but critical mind.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kerfe

    If Neil Gaiman and Michael Chabon haven't read this book and borrowed concepts liberally, then they are operating in a parallel universe, mining the same sources. It's a rich and deep vein. Hyde rambles through the many ways Trickster figures influence human thought and action. The idea of the disruptive as necessary, even sacred, to life, has wide distribution. "...the origins, liveliness, and durability of cultures require that there be space for figures whose function is to uncover and disrupt If Neil Gaiman and Michael Chabon haven't read this book and borrowed concepts liberally, then they are operating in a parallel universe, mining the same sources. It's a rich and deep vein. Hyde rambles through the many ways Trickster figures influence human thought and action. The idea of the disruptive as necessary, even sacred, to life, has wide distribution. "...the origins, liveliness, and durability of cultures require that there be space for figures whose function is to uncover and disrupt the very things that cultures are based on." Even though many of the Trickster figures were familiar to me--Raven, Coyote, Monkey, Hermes--others were not--Loki, Eshu, Legba--and Hyde makes connections that reveal layers I hadn't known or seen. He also discusses how mythology becomes reality, as humans themselves become shape-shifters, re-aligning the context of their work and their lives, and changing their society/culture in the process. I particularly enjoyed reading about the motivations and working methods of Marcel Duchamp and John Cage, and as a result will always look at their work and lives in an entirely different way. The section on Frederick Douglass also gave me a fuller and more nuanced insight into his influence and life. "If we think the ideal is real we are seriously mistaken." Life is messy. Try to control it too tightly and it will burst. Better to laugh and occasionally let Trickster have his way.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Anna L Conti

    The power of this book, for artists, is the overwhelming evidence of our descent from a being more than human, less than divine - one who inhabits the crossroads, crosses boundaries, works the joints, sees more and risks all.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Richard Newton

    I find it hard to categorise this book. It certainly is not quite what i expected it to be. Highly intellectual - a cross between analysing folk stories, philosophy of art and creativity - all around the concept of the trickster. I also can't work out if it is profound or merely very clever. But it's certainly interesting. From the start of the book it jumps into intellectual deep waters, there is no gentle introduction. Don't take the cover blurb about modern creators/artists too seriously. The I find it hard to categorise this book. It certainly is not quite what i expected it to be. Highly intellectual - a cross between analysing folk stories, philosophy of art and creativity - all around the concept of the trickster. I also can't work out if it is profound or merely very clever. But it's certainly interesting. From the start of the book it jumps into intellectual deep waters, there is no gentle introduction. Don't take the cover blurb about modern creators/artists too seriously. They are mentioned and analysed but to a much lesser degree that characters from different cultures folk stories who all exhibit being a trickster. It took me quite a while to get into the book but overall I enjoyed it. It now sits in my intellectual oddities pile.

  6. 5 out of 5

    tJacksonrichards

    Hyde's interpretive framework for trickster mythology is structured more or less as follows: Gods & Heaven = societal hegemony / capitalists / wealthy 1% / status quo Trickster = liminal, generative force (culture / ideology) disruptive to status quo Humans & Earth = subaltern / marginalized / labor / 99% / beneficiaries of trickster mediation It's a simple, serviceable analytical rubric applied toward some decent comparative mythology ('trickster genealogy') whereby he establishes elements of his o Hyde's interpretive framework for trickster mythology is structured more or less as follows: Gods & Heaven = societal hegemony / capitalists / wealthy 1% / status quo Trickster = liminal, generative force (culture / ideology) disruptive to status quo Humans & Earth = subaltern / marginalized / labor / 99% / beneficiaries of trickster mediation It's a simple, serviceable analytical rubric applied toward some decent comparative mythology ('trickster genealogy') whereby he establishes elements of his own awkward critical lexicon ('dirt-work', 'finding pores', 'two-way chance', etc) the likes of which are then employed in various associative forays with the work of avant-garde artists like John Cage and the life of Frederick Douglass. Mythological affinities among disparate peoples being the stuff of grade-school introductory surveys, the basic pattern-recognition MO of Hyde's trickster genealogy not only wears itself out early on, it also suffers—due to its fundamentally prescriptive nature—from egregious selective bias and oversimplification (Hyde, to his credit, readily acknowledges both). Nor is he aided by a muddled and needlessly protracted thesis (put simply: tricksters generate culture by disrupting the status quo) which could've easily been consolidated into half the page count by omitting much indulgent, reiterative rhetorical fluff and foregrounding his finer points with more concise headings like, say, 'Rejuvenation From Destruction' and 'The Function of the Avant Garde' instead of his terribly clunky organizational wordplay ('Shameless Speech and Speechless Shame' or 'Change the Rap and Slip the Trap' etc). I admire the thrust of Hyde's project, his enthusiasm for the material, and especially his implications to disrupt, hack, culture-jam, re-engineer, backfire, reappropriate, wreak havoc, dirty, overthrow, subvert, transgress etc (I was often reminded of the late Saul Alinsky who dedicated his Rules For Radicals to lucifer). I'm also certain there is an ingenious long-form essay to be culled from all the gluttonous intellectual bloat found herein. But as it is—Hyde making increasingly desperate, overcrowded associative reaches while also becoming somehow more predictable with each expository gesture (ie. when Hyde writes 'To place these reflections on Hermes and Frederick Douglass in the larger frame of my project...' there is finally no denying his painful overestimation of the complexity of his premise)—TMTW is so wildly overfed, redundant and heavy-handed that whatever potency might've survived in a tightly crafted essay form is sadly diffused into tedium here. + I was pretty turned off when he borrowed from Foucault ("All social structures do well to anchor their rules of conduct in the seemingly simple inscription of the body...") without proper credit :(

  7. 5 out of 5

    Akemi G.

    Hermes was born in the morning, and by the evening, he was hungry for steak. (Such is the growth of god, you know.) So he sneaks out the house and steals the cows that belong to Apollo (his half brother). Even though Hermes uses various tricks to cover up his crime, like forcing the cows to walk backwards, Apollo figures it out soon enough and storms to the cave Hermes lives with his mother. He demands Hermes to return the cows, or he'd send him to the underworld. (In other words, he'd kill him. Hermes was born in the morning, and by the evening, he was hungry for steak. (Such is the growth of god, you know.) So he sneaks out the house and steals the cows that belong to Apollo (his half brother). Even though Hermes uses various tricks to cover up his crime, like forcing the cows to walk backwards, Apollo figures it out soon enough and storms to the cave Hermes lives with his mother. He demands Hermes to return the cows, or he'd send him to the underworld. (In other words, he'd kill him.) To this, little Hermes says, "Why do you bully on me, big brother? I didn't steal your cows. Do I look like a tough cowboy? I was born yesterday. I've never left this place. I don't even know what a cow looks like. Blah, blah, blah . . ." Amazingly, they come to terms. Not only that, they become friends, and Apollo swears he'd love Hermes above all other gods. (It should be noted that tricksters are not just blatant liars like, say, politicians, or loser type criminals. Tricksters are smart, charming, and often bring good lucks.) This doesn't happen in the dualistic "you are either good or evil," and "you are either my friend or foe" value system. This book is a great guide to the dynamic ways tricksters like Hermes work, breaking the static order of things and brining fresh changes. Hyde covers wide variety of world mythologies, from ancient Greek to old Africa, native Americans, etc. He is insightful, too. For example, take the above story and assume Hermes was a local resident. Outside, there was a land which didn't specifically belong to anyone before, but recently, some new people had arrived and started farming. One day, hungry "Hermes" goes there and takes a cow. Is that a theft? By the logic of newly settling people, yes. However, when "Hermes" caught a rabbit in the same area before, it was okay. What's the difference? Is it possible that the settlers stole land from the unsuspecting residents? Tricksters prompt us to review our values, not in order to reverse any situation but to bring further definitions. I think we want to pay more respect to tricksters. I took one star off because I think the organization of the book can be greatly improved. Also, his application of the trickster archetype to real life figures (etc) feels forced.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Gabe Steller

    Very cool examination of the Trickster figure in various cultures and the similar functions his myths serve, and how he’s like the father of imagination! Woohoo! Was definitely one of those galaxy brain books that starts one place, seems to get pretty abstract, and then brings it all home and you’re like WooooOOOaaaAAAhhhh!! Highlights included learning about weird rituals like the medieval festival of fools where people would invade the church dressed in drag, or in grotesque masks, and drink an Very cool examination of the Trickster figure in various cultures and the similar functions his myths serve, and how he’s like the father of imagination! Woohoo! Was definitely one of those galaxy brain books that starts one place, seems to get pretty abstract, and then brings it all home and you’re like WooooOOOaaaAAAhhhh!! Highlights included learning about weird rituals like the medieval festival of fools where people would invade the church dressed in drag, or in grotesque masks, and drink and sing and dance around to gross songs. As well as discussion of how tricksters can both inspire a challenge to the social order, and be a way to maintain it, his stories/traditions serving as a safety valve for dissent, mocking (festival of fools!). The comparisons of modern artists to tricksters doesn’t completely avoid cliché but there is a suuuuper interesting exploration of Frederick Douglas, and the discussion of the public reaction to Robert Mapplethorpe’s Homoerotic/graphic photography VS. public reaction to Piss Christ, is useful as well. By the end Hyde, does sorta start to repeat him self a bit, and even tho it’s only about 300 pages, probably still coulda cut 50 or so. Still, very worth it!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Aaron R.

    Skimmed it because I had to return it. Made my brain hurt. Reread in future.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kristen

    I enjoy reading about mythology, I think, because I find myths to be resonant, but it's often hard to put my finger on why they seem so significant. In Trickster Makes This World, Hyde examines tricksters from various cultures (Raven, Coyote, Hermes, Krishna, Eshu) and talks about the ways that these figures signify a certain attitude toward life. For Hyde, tricksters embody the ability to act with cunning, turn accidents into opportunities, and subvert those assumptions that are so ingrained th I enjoy reading about mythology, I think, because I find myths to be resonant, but it's often hard to put my finger on why they seem so significant. In Trickster Makes This World, Hyde examines tricksters from various cultures (Raven, Coyote, Hermes, Krishna, Eshu) and talks about the ways that these figures signify a certain attitude toward life. For Hyde, tricksters embody the ability to act with cunning, turn accidents into opportunities, and subvert those assumptions that are so ingrained they often feel like facts. I think he sums it up pretty well with this line from the final chapter: "...humankind has two responses when faced with all that engenders awe and dread in this world: the way of the shaman (and the priests), which assumes a spiritual world, bows before it, and seeks to make alliances; and the way of the trickster (and the humanists), which recognizes no power beyond its own intelligence, and seeks to seize and subdue the unknown with wit and cunning."

  11. 5 out of 5

    D

    I read the hardcover edition. Great text about how to circumnavigate traps of culture. And at his mother’s home, Hermes… slipped sideways through the keyhole, like fog on an autumn breeze. The trickster is a boundary-crosser, or brings to the surface a distinction previously hidden from sight. Trickster is the god of the threshold in all its forms. Chance the rap and slip the trap poem by ishmael reed about ralph ellison i am outside of history. i wish i had some peanuts; it looks hungry there in its cag I read the hardcover edition. Great text about how to circumnavigate traps of culture. And at his mother’s home, Hermes… slipped sideways through the keyhole, like fog on an autumn breeze. The trickster is a boundary-crosser, or brings to the surface a distinction previously hidden from sight. Trickster is the god of the threshold in all its forms. Chance the rap and slip the trap poem by ishmael reed about ralph ellison i am outside of history. i wish i had some peanuts; it looks hungry there in its cage. i am inside of history, its hungrier than i thot. I’m no prophet. My job is making windows where there were once walls. - Michel Foucault Words exist because of meaning; once you’ve gotten the meaning, you can forget the words. - Chuang Tzu

  12. 5 out of 5

    Claudia

    Very slow read not because it bored me but because it freaked me out. Had to take a break in between chapters... Powerful, good stuff. "They're all the same, these tricksters; they have no shame and so they have no silence." (p. 153) Larouê! Exú Very slow read not because it bored me but because it freaked me out. Had to take a break in between chapters... Powerful, good stuff. "They're all the same, these tricksters; they have no shame and so they have no silence." (p. 153) Larouê! Exú

  13. 4 out of 5

    Bill

    This book is good for two reasons: 1. It makes anthropolgy super-interesting by giving raunchy examples of devious (and entertaining) beings; Tricksters 2. It exposed me to the idea of guilt and shame cultures, which every educated person should know about - but somehow I went to college for 9 years and never heard of it. This book is written by a man who was head of creative writing at Harvard, so if you don't have 50k a year to spend on school, this is the next best thing. This book is good for two reasons: 1. It makes anthropolgy super-interesting by giving raunchy examples of devious (and entertaining) beings; Tricksters 2. It exposed me to the idea of guilt and shame cultures, which every educated person should know about - but somehow I went to college for 9 years and never heard of it. This book is written by a man who was head of creative writing at Harvard, so if you don't have 50k a year to spend on school, this is the next best thing.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Espy

    Another great book by Lewis Hyde. It's not as exciting as The Gift - but an interesting look at the "trickster" in native cultures and in contemporary life. It appealed to me as a look at the socio-cultural history of people who are Machiavellian types, manipulators, and behind the scenes puppet masters. I think W and Cheney are modern day tricksters. Another great book by Lewis Hyde. It's not as exciting as The Gift - but an interesting look at the "trickster" in native cultures and in contemporary life. It appealed to me as a look at the socio-cultural history of people who are Machiavellian types, manipulators, and behind the scenes puppet masters. I think W and Cheney are modern day tricksters.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Matt Davis

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. First, a caveat, this is very much an academic text. If you took a shot for every time Lewis Hyde wrote “, then, “ to make a point, you’d be dead by chapter 2. Despite the academic density though, it is extremely thorough and clearly written. This book succeeded in widening my view of tricksters. While mainly focusing on Hermès, the author makes a broad tour of tricksters both mythic and human and uses them to illustrate several important points. Tricksters are agents of transformation, existing First, a caveat, this is very much an academic text. If you took a shot for every time Lewis Hyde wrote “, then, “ to make a point, you’d be dead by chapter 2. Despite the academic density though, it is extremely thorough and clearly written. This book succeeded in widening my view of tricksters. While mainly focusing on Hermès, the author makes a broad tour of tricksters both mythic and human and uses them to illustrate several important points. Tricksters are agents of transformation, existing at “the boundaries” to challenge systems and either destroy or strengthen them. The key idea I was left with is that no system of belief is completely bullet proof, but by having tricksters, mythologies and societies are able to reconcile their own contradictions and embrace a little bit of chaos - a system with tricksters can bend, a system without tricksters will break (or break others - Lewis Hyde makes a few points about Protestantism, and how its inflexibility becomes oppressive both internally and externally). Tricksters also help you to embrace outside perspective, which I’ve already experienced post trickster, reading some non western literature. This book isn’t perfect however - while it is extremely interesting, it often wasn’t more than the sum of its parts. I might have preferred this as several essays instead of an entire book. Several sections were a drag and the author had a tendency to ramble; the conclusion of the book contains several new ideas just as I thought he would be wrapping up. And he admits to forcing some ideas, such as the idea that the biological necessity of hunting should necessarily lead to tricksters. Nonetheless, tricksters have invaded my brain - I’ll be on the lookout for boundaries and just a little bit of chaos from now on.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Michele

    The author casts a wide net in his exploration of trickster gods and their cultural impact. And that includes the question: how is the trickster embodied in our heroes? This is the question that causes Mr. Hyde to go on a quest to find important historic personalities that portrayed the trait of the trickster.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Rune W

    This book was a delight from start to finish, I found myself attempting to delay my reading of it so it would last longer. There were many well thought out and researched ideas in here that led me down on research paths of my own, and I’m so glad I took the dive into reading this.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    Philosophy, creativity, cultural anthropology, storytelling and the importance of the Trickster archetype. While the author takes in Hermes (Classical Greece), Eshu (Yoruba), Loki (Norse), The Monkey King (China), Coyote (indigenous N America), Ananse and Aunt Nancy (Ashanti) and Wakdjunkagla (Winnebago), Inanna (Sumerian), Matlacihuatl (Mexico) and more, this book is far more than a mere identity parade of Tricksters from around the world. Instead, what we have is a highly accessible, intellectua Philosophy, creativity, cultural anthropology, storytelling and the importance of the Trickster archetype. While the author takes in Hermes (Classical Greece), Eshu (Yoruba), Loki (Norse), The Monkey King (China), Coyote (indigenous N America), Ananse and Aunt Nancy (Ashanti) and Wakdjunkagla (Winnebago), Inanna (Sumerian), Matlacihuatl (Mexico) and more, this book is far more than a mere identity parade of Tricksters from around the world. Instead, what we have is a highly accessible, intellectual and thought-provoking application of the trickster myth to art, literature and culture in general. Hyde philosophises on the origins and commonalities of the archetype, and identifies significant differences in the Trickster as (mainly) he appears across cultures.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Brad McKenna

    I was going to edit my notes but you know what? I'm not. Here they are, warts and all: “The name ‘Hermes’ once meant ‘he of the stone heap’ which tells us that the cairn is more than a trail marker- it is an alter to the forces that govern these spaces of heightened uncertainty, and to the intelligence needed to negotiate them.” (p. 6) Did his name really mean that? Yes: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Herm... Most tricksters are male, even in Matrilineal society. The author posits that this may I was going to edit my notes but you know what? I'm not. Here they are, warts and all: “The name ‘Hermes’ once meant ‘he of the stone heap’ which tells us that the cairn is more than a trail marker- it is an alter to the forces that govern these spaces of heightened uncertainty, and to the intelligence needed to negotiate them.” (p. 6) Did his name really mean that? Yes: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Herm... Most tricksters are male, even in Matrilineal society. The author posits that this may be due to their lusty, yet lacking many offspring, nature. Women Tricksters would be apt to have more kids if so lusty. Not sure if this idea holds water, though. Neither is he. (8) There’s Tricksters in the Blues. Stack-O-Lee? (9) “The Devil is an agent of evil but a trickster is amoral not immoral.” (10) That’s why the Devil is not a trickster, despite some in Christianity claiming so. Cheyenne stories sometimes name Coyote “White Man”. This could be European Influence or coincidence since Old Man Coyote has white hair. (12) “If Trickster were ever to get into power, he would stop being Trickster.” (footnote on 13) Hermes invented lying because he wanted to eat meat. (17) The earliest mention of the word “dolos”, trick in Greek, is baiting a hook to catch a fish. (18) “So Trickster is cunning about traps but not so cunning as to avoid them himself.” (20) Magpies are recurring antagonists for Coyote (28) Winnebago is the name of a tribe in Wisconsin. (29) Trickster look for opportunity, which comes from the Greek word, “poros”, from which we also get the word, pore, as in skin pore or opening. (46) Once upon a time each city-state in Ancient Greek had their own gods. When Hesiod was around, generally thought to be between 750 and 650 BCE (same time as Homer), there was a pan-Hellenistic movement. The different forms the Trickster takes in different Native American tribes is like this pre-unified Greece. The effort to try to label each Trickster the same, or at least mostly the same, is the Pan-American Tradition only attempted by colonizers. The tribes considered themselves distinct and proudly so. (68) Some traditions say the Trickster invented language, whether literal of simply gave people permission to talk where before it’d been forbidden, is uncertain. (76) Myth Overlaps Coyote can bring his wife back from the land of the death, only if he doesn’t look back to see her on the way out. Is this influenced by the Orpheus tale? I really wish we hadn’t killed so many natives for many, many, many, reasons. The relevant one here is to see if this story was retro-fitted after colonizers infected native ways of thinking with European traditions. (83) Loki steals the Apple of Immortality and The Monkey King steals the Peaches of Immortality. The Devil tricking Eve into eating the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil seems to be an adaption of these myths and perhaps the genesis (pun very much intended) of the Abrahamic devil being thought of as a trickster. Or was this story supposed to show him as a trickster and not the source of all evil? Did the Christian scribes who kept the religion alive in the vastly illiterate Dark Ages transform the ID of a trickster from troublemaker who does both good and evil to a being who does only evil? (103) Chapter 5 General Thought: Divination/fortune telling is brought-to-me-by Tricksters like The Yoruba’s Eshu. Because fate is set but by calling on the Trickster by throwing palm nuts (or yarrow stalks like in the I Ching), he can give you insights needed to change your fate. Hermes of the Marketplace: An altar, furnished with lamps, was placed before the statue; the inquirer, after lighting the lamps and offering incense, placed a coin in the right hand of the god; he then whispered his question into the ear of the statue, and, stopping his own ears, left the market place. The first sound which he heard outside was an omen. (concept from p. 135, I have to search for the prophecy because I returned the book before I could copy the text down) Chapter 6 thoughts: Modern artists, painters, composers, etc are tricksters because they leave a lot of their work up to chance. The author spent a lot of time on composer John Cage, who didn’t think or plan is work, he flips a coin or uses the I Ching. There were only cursory mentions to tricksters of lore in the chapter. This was the beginning of my waning interest. I see the dude’s point, that trickster spirit lives on through these peeps who rely on luck, but it got too far away from the actual figures for my liking. “Rudderless Intelligence” (from an NYT article published on 7-7-87) is a trait shared by psychopaths and tricksters. The difference is that trickers can do good, too; like when Coyote gave fire. Chapter 7 thought: The distance from Trickers grows ever more. While I requested Maxine Kingston Hong’s Trapmaster Monkey to my reading list, I really started to not like the book. It veered too far into traits of recent cultures, like Shame Culture. Again, I appreciate the points but it was not what I was looking for. I started skimming at this chapter. Chapter 8 thought: After a brief enjoyment of the discussion of how what is considered dirty around the world, I lost interest again. Chapter 9 thought: Some interesting stuff but it was too late. I enjoyed his getting back to the Hermes myth, but it was the same origin myth as earlier in the book. I was back in because I liked how he claimed Frederick Douglass was a Trickster. Yeah! “Free Slave” is an oxymoron! Never thought of it that way. I’m so used to hearing it that I inferred it as “Freed Slave”. (227) Hermes stole Apollo’s cattle; Douglass stole literacy. (227) The slaves got Christmas to New Years off and if they didn’t get drunk on Christmas it was an insult to their master’s “generosity”. Douglass things this time off was the only thing keeping slaves from revolting, it acted as a pressure release valve. (233) It was the old trickster’s battle against appetite, for applejack, for revelry, as well as the filth so often equated with tricksters; Douglass would wake up hung over in the pig’s sty. Douglass was neither black nor white, or so the author claims. He made the “sin” of being literate; something no black man was allowed to be and at the same time speaking too eloquently he raised the distrust of his white supports who wanted the country drawl of an uneducated black man. Y’know to be authentic with his message of abolition. (247) It’s possible Douglass had a white father, black mother, and ancestors in one of their lines that were Native American. I can see how the author felt justified in making the trickster connection, he was travelling between so many worlds. (251)

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jesse

    Trickster Makes This World starts great, spinning out some of the implications of various Trickster myths, and linking the Trickster archetype to a whole range of folk stories: Coyote, Hermes, Loki, Prometheus, and eventually, Alan Ginsberg, Frederick Douglass, Krishna, and many others. Hyde draws out the subtleties of Trickster's methods and effects, and it makes for entertaining and thought-provoking reading. Unfortunately, the basic messages of transgression, boundary-crossing, marginalizatio Trickster Makes This World starts great, spinning out some of the implications of various Trickster myths, and linking the Trickster archetype to a whole range of folk stories: Coyote, Hermes, Loki, Prometheus, and eventually, Alan Ginsberg, Frederick Douglass, Krishna, and many others. Hyde draws out the subtleties of Trickster's methods and effects, and it makes for entertaining and thought-provoking reading. Unfortunately, the basic messages of transgression, boundary-crossing, marginalization, and misbehavior eventually become a bit repetitive. The last few chapters are exhausting, escalating the rhetoric and drawing out the analysis until it starts to feel predictable and stale. These last chapters are saved by a couple salient points and an interesting use of real-life examples (these are the chapters on Ginsberg, Douglass, et al) but they're harder to get through than the playful early writing.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Amanda (Amy) Goode

    Trickster Makes This World came to me by way of Emily Levine's TED talk: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=grtGI7... back in February 2013. I was particularly interested in the notion that "trickster" is a boundary crosser by nature. I read aloud from the book on our travels to and from Little Rock, Arkansas in March 2013- a trip which ended with my husband being fired by the company he had worked for since 1992. Now referred to as the "great upheaval" this was the culminating event of a 3 year per Trickster Makes This World came to me by way of Emily Levine's TED talk: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=grtGI7... back in February 2013. I was particularly interested in the notion that "trickster" is a boundary crosser by nature. I read aloud from the book on our travels to and from Little Rock, Arkansas in March 2013- a trip which ended with my husband being fired by the company he had worked for since 1992. Now referred to as the "great upheaval" this was the culminating event of a 3 year period of anguish for our family and ultimately proved to be our liberation. I now believe that Trickster was sent to guide us out of the underworld, across the river Styx and back into an earthly, more human realm. If you have discovered this book, all I can say is get in, sit down, shut up and hang on.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    This is a very analytical view of trickster mythology, although I think this is a good thing, because the themes that emerge give a fuller picture of what tricksters are about. For example, tricksters are obsessed with traps: setting them and escaping them. Just like they're attracted to gates. There's some application of the trickster mythology to real life people like Frederick Douglass, Maxine Hong Kingston, and Marcel Duchamp (sp?). The real-life figures never seem to match up to the legends This is a very analytical view of trickster mythology, although I think this is a good thing, because the themes that emerge give a fuller picture of what tricksters are about. For example, tricksters are obsessed with traps: setting them and escaping them. Just like they're attracted to gates. There's some application of the trickster mythology to real life people like Frederick Douglass, Maxine Hong Kingston, and Marcel Duchamp (sp?). The real-life figures never seem to match up to the legends, although themes of breaking shame barriers and stealing to get one's rightful place make a lot of sense.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Bourne

    Overall: Clunky. Watered-down. But with a fair amount of interesting material insofar as it is quoted and paraphrased (as opposed to generated by Mr. Hyde himself). The text sketches out some luke warm versions of altogether dropdead wonderful myths, each choicecut from around the globe. Legba, Argus, Coyote, etc. But Mr. Hyde is too present in both page count and interpretation for my liking. I want above all else to fantasize and weigh the various implications myself. He is a handholder and an Overall: Clunky. Watered-down. But with a fair amount of interesting material insofar as it is quoted and paraphrased (as opposed to generated by Mr. Hyde himself). The text sketches out some luke warm versions of altogether dropdead wonderful myths, each choicecut from around the globe. Legba, Argus, Coyote, etc. But Mr. Hyde is too present in both page count and interpretation for my liking. I want above all else to fantasize and weigh the various implications myself. He is a handholder and an oversimplifier, and I want his voice out. The myths in themselves are just so much more fun and interesting than he is. They do not need to be countersunk into a slab of tedious conjectures.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    By far my favorite non-fiction book. The power of the book lies in its ability to explain the enduring presence of trickster myths across a number of different cultures by connecting tricksters with the impulse of artistic creation. By relating tricksters to real-life artists, Hyde demonstrates the relevance of ancient myths to the modern world. The book is elegantly written, compelling, and a pleasure to read. I was awestruck the first time I read it.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    I found the first half more interesting and compelling then the second half of modern tricksters. Does didn't land with me as well, but I'm also probably a little sensitive to the deification of men right now. (Likely why it took me so long to get through this) Really interesting text, and it's interesting to get background for some of the thinking of writers whose work I enjoy who have spoken admiringly of the text, like Neil Gaiman and Michael Chabon. I found the first half more interesting and compelling then the second half of modern tricksters. Does didn't land with me as well, but I'm also probably a little sensitive to the deification of men right now. (Likely why it took me so long to get through this) Really interesting text, and it's interesting to get background for some of the thinking of writers whose work I enjoy who have spoken admiringly of the text, like Neil Gaiman and Michael Chabon.

  26. 5 out of 5

    John Isaacson

    I read this before I started joe Campbell's hero with a thousand faces so it blew my mind. Hyde cites multiple examples of trickster characters in different cultures, discusses the social function of tricksters (keep societies flexible and able to adapt), and shows how artists serve a trickster role in society. I read this before I started joe Campbell's hero with a thousand faces so it blew my mind. Hyde cites multiple examples of trickster characters in different cultures, discusses the social function of tricksters (keep societies flexible and able to adapt), and shows how artists serve a trickster role in society.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Aran

    Great. Intriguing riffs off of old tales, all linked together by this strange character. I have to go work on my thesis now, or I would finish reading it now. Another day.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Richey

    Some parts I liked more than others, but a very fun, engaging, enlightening, and interesting read. I may say more later.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey Howard

    I've added Trickster Makes This World to my cherished toolkit for cultural criticism, alongside works by Alan Watts, Joseph Campbell, Margaret Atwood--and of course, David Foster Wallace. Trickster is a figure vastly misunderstood and undervalued in society, but that's the point of Trickster, now isn't it? Trickster is an archetypal figure, most prominent in polytheistic religions, mythologies, and epic literature, who stirs the imagination and injects vitality into stagnant societies, small town I've added Trickster Makes This World to my cherished toolkit for cultural criticism, alongside works by Alan Watts, Joseph Campbell, Margaret Atwood--and of course, David Foster Wallace. Trickster is a figure vastly misunderstood and undervalued in society, but that's the point of Trickster, now isn't it? Trickster is an archetypal figure, most prominent in polytheistic religions, mythologies, and epic literature, who stirs the imagination and injects vitality into stagnant societies, small towns, and even households. He is known by many names: Coyote, Hermes, Mercury, Loki, Rumplestiltskin, Susano-o, Legba, Eshu, Prometheus, Kokopelli, and Raven. He lives on the road. He has no homeland, wandering from town to town, bringing fortune and misfortune, disrupting social structures, pushing boundaries, a thief and a gift-giver, a messenger between the gods and humans, a boundary-crosser, sometimes cunning and other times conned, a cross-dresser, and figure who thrives on the fringe. He is amoral, rather than moral or immoral, occupying the realm of ambiguity, ambivalence, contradiction, and paradox. Simply, he is the ultimate culture-transforming hero, an antagonist. I use the pronoun “he” because trickster tales almost universally, regardless of whether the culture is matriarchal or patriarchal, it features a male character, or rather, a figure who usually manifests themselves as male. Lewis Hyde asserts that “trickster the culture hero is always present; his seemingly asocial actions continue to keep our world lively and give it the flexibility to endure…that the origins, liveliness, and durability of cultures require that there be a space for figures whose function is to uncover and disrupt the very things that cultures are based on...When he lies or steals, it isn’t so much to get away from something or get rich as to disturb the established categories of truth and property and, by so doing, open the road to possible new worlds...He is the character of myth who threatens to take the myth apart.” Trickster is not a devil or adversary as understood by monotheistic religions; when Christian missionaries came in contact with polytheistic religions they often translated the local trickster God, taking him to be a manifestation of Satan, Lucifer, the Son of the Morning. As Hyde points out, “Trickster only comes to life in the complex terrain of polytheism. If the spiritual world is dominated by a single high god opposed by a single embodiment of evil, then the ancient trickster disappears...The Devil is an agent of evil, but trickster is amoral, not immoral.” Hyde gives us a fresh way to look at historical figures like John Cabe, Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duschamp, Allen Ginsberg, and my personal favorite, Frederick Douglass, to articulate an important player in the remaking of culture and social institutions. If you think Trickster is a devil at worst or a playful entertainer at best, reserved for fables and myths, then you are ignoring one of the most essential forces in society and community. One can't talk about any revolution (political, cultural, moral) without finding Trickster at the heart, the lone chaos-maker, playful and dangerous: you'll find him dressed in drag, joining all sorts of lovers in decadent orgies, giving gifts and misfortune to society, reversing roles, making the exceptions which define the rules, the key figure of each epoch, destined to be taken for granted. Hyde gifts us a foundational implement to dissect and understand society, a dynamic map from which we can inspire other trickster behaviors, for this archetype is just one of the many we contain inside ourselves. We each show it now and again. Despite the damage occasionally unleashed, we ought to never forget the beauty that is found by embracing the God of the Doorway, the Cattle Thief charmer, who reminds us that nothing is static or certain, no rule can remain unbroken or unchanged. Everything has a season. Embrace it and don't forget to laugh about it.

  30. 5 out of 5

    nadia | notabookshelf

    personally, for me, this book served a triple function: 1. most obviously, i learned a lot and set fire to my already long-burning passion for world mythology 2. i managed to write an essay that was one of the most fun things i've written in a long while because i got to talk about Telemachus's daddy issues and how Odysseus is a trickster but not really 3. finally, this book let me stroke my ego and say "oh, i've actually read this myth/article/essay/book/seen this piece of art/stan this controv personally, for me, this book served a triple function: 1. most obviously, i learned a lot and set fire to my already long-burning passion for world mythology 2. i managed to write an essay that was one of the most fun things i've written in a long while because i got to talk about Telemachus's daddy issues and how Odysseus is a trickster but not really 3. finally, this book let me stroke my ego and say "oh, i've actually read this myth/article/essay/book/seen this piece of art/stan this controversial writer form the 20th century" (yes i mean Allen Ginsberg), so personally, i must say my experience of this book was absolutely phenomenally stellar. to the point though, i would start with why i recommend you read this. this book is by no means an exhaustive account of the trickster figure in all mythology; in fact, it gets repetitive at times, especially towards the end. what it does incredibly well, however, is give a map to an inquisitive mind. Hyde quotes many myths and mentions even more of them, then he gives you his interpretation; what binds this book together is the Homeric Hymn to Hermes which is basically brought up throughout and discussed extensively. it takes the trickster figure and twists and turns it and shows the many aspects of this (incredibly interesting and often misunderstood) archetype; if you know nothing about tricksters except that maybe the Marvel universe Loki is based on a real Norse mythology figure who is a trickster, this book is for you. it's really just a nice collection of traits to look for and ways to interpret them throughout. a couple reasons why this is not a 10/10 read: first and foremost, the aforementioned repetitiveness. it gets unbearable towards the end and i admit i had to skip whole sections and skim through a fair chunk of them, because some discussions were straight up the same as the earlier ones but like, on a particular literary example – gets rather redundant. also in the second half, i feel like Hyde inserts a bit too much of his own thoughts without any textual evidence to support it, which is fine, i guess, when dealing with mythology, but somehow it doesn't come off as too personal in the earlier chapters. overall, again, i definitely recommend this if you're interested in any type of mythology, culture, anthropology, ever: this book can prove to be insightful, for sure. i have a shit ton of sticky tabs and i intend to use them in the future; beware.

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