Trickster Makes The World
Mischief, Myth and Art
This ambitious and captivating book brings to life the playful and disruptive side of human imagination as it is embodied in ancient myth and modern practice.
The classical trickster figures are most at home on the road or at the twilight edge of town. They are the 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 heroes of culture. In North America, Coyote taught the race how to catch salmon, sing, and shoot arrows. In West Africa, Eshu introduced 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.
Trickster Makes This World 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, Frederick Douglass and others.
The old myths say that the trickster made the world as we actually find it. 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.
Praise & Reviews
“Lewis Hyde’s second masterpiece…”
— Margaret Atwood, Los Angeles Times Book Review. (pdf)
“[A] hymn to the gods of mischief, who are also the gods of artistic and cultural renewal.”
— Michael Dirda, Washington Post Book World. (pdf)
“Rich and fascinating… Like the classic tricksters, Hyde is always serious, most profoundly so when he plays around.”
— Walter Kendrick, The Boston Globe. (pdf)
“Lewis Hyde is the most subtle, thorough, and brilliant mythologist we now have. This book is gorgeous.”
“Lewis Hyde is a national treasure, one of our true superstars of nonfiction.”
—David Foster Wallace
“A major work of scholarship that is also a major work of art.”
“Brilliant… By the time he is done he has folded language, culture, and the very habit of being human into his ken.”
— The New Yorker
“Equally poetic and scholarly, Trickster reads like an epic world dream.”
— The Village Voice, naming Trickster one of the best books of 1998.