Tackling the two meanings of gift: a talent and the act of giving, Hyde breaks the book into two parts. The first deals with ancient cultures’ gift economy, the expectation that a gift is always in motion, pass it along or it dies, stagnates. The island arm shells that pass from one island to the next, always in a certain direction so that you receive from someone you never give to. Similarly, the talent you have should be treated as a gift. It is bestowed upon you, you are its vessel, you must give it away. Hyde tackles the problem of how artists can survive in a market economy: self patronage (have a 2nd job), patronage (grants), or earning money with your art. Interesting point that the Cold War funded art because the CIA supported the art scene to show how vibrant our culture was. Same with science- pure research funding died out post-Soviet collapse. Mention of Hyde’s group: Creative Capital, an independent funding source for artists, modeled on the Music Performance Fund which musician union got recording companies to pay some portion of sales into a trust fund which funds live music.
Further reading: Cultural Cold War by Frances Stoner Saunders
Just as treating nature’s bounty as a gift ensures the fertility of nature, so to treat the products of the imagination as gifts ensures fertility of imagination.
The initial stirrings of his work he took to be bestowed of his soul… and his response was to “make the work” (this motto sitting on Whitman’s desk) and speak it back to the soul.