This new edition includes an introduction by Michael Chabon.
For the founding fathers, democratic self-governance itself demanded open and easy access to ideas. So did the growth of creative communities, such as that of eighteenth-century science. And so did the flourishing of public persons, the very actors whose "civic virtue" brought the nation into being.
In this lively, carefully argued, and well-documented book, Hyde brings the past to bear on present matters, shedding fresh light on everything from the Human Genome Project to Bob Dylan's musical roots. Common as Air allows us to stand on the shoulders of America's revolutionary giants and to see beyond today's narrow debates over cultural ownership. What it reveals is nothing less than an inspiring vision of how to reclaim the commonwealth of art and ideas that we were meant to inherit.
“The best book I know of for talented but unacknowledged creators. . . . A masterpiece.” —Margaret Atwood
“No one who is invested in any kind of art . . . can read The Gift and remain unchanged.” —David Foster Wallace
By now a modern classic, The Gift is a brilliantly orchestrated defense of the value of creativity and of its importance in a culture increasingly governed by money and overrun with commodities. This book is even more necessary today than when it first appeared.
An illuminating and transformative book, and completely original in its view of the world, The Gift is cherished by artists, writers, musicians, and thinkers. It is in itself a gift to all who discover the classic wisdom found in its pages.
In 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. Thirty years later his son registered the words ‘I Have a Dream’ as a trademark and successfully blocked attempts to reproduce these four words. Unlike the Gettysburg Address and other famous speeches, ‘I Have a Dream’ is now private property, even though some the speech is comprised of words written by Thomas Jefferson, a man who very much believed that the corporate land grab of knowledge was at odds with the development of civil society.
Exploring the complex intersection between creativity and commerce, Hyde raises the question of how our shared store of art and knowledge might be made compatible with our desire to copyright everything, and questions whether the fruits of creative labour can – or should – be privately owned, especially in the digital age. ‘In what sense,’ he writes, ‘can someone own, and therefore control other people’s access to, a work of fiction or a public speech or the ideas behind a drug?’
Moving deftly between literary analysis, history and biography (from Benjamin Franklin’s reluctance to patent his inventions to Bob Dylan’s admission that his early method of songwriting was largely comprised of ‘rearranging verses to old blues ballads, adding an original line here or there… slapping a title on it’), Common As Air is a stirring call-to-arms about how we might concretely legislate for a cultural commons that would simultaneously allow for financial reward and protection from monopoly. Rigorous, informative and riveting, this is a book for anyone who is interested in the creative process.