In this follow-up to his magisterial The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property, Lewis Hyde explores the creative contributions to culture made by trickster figures both ancient and modern. The trickster is known by many different names — Coyote, Krishna, Hermes, Loki, Eshu, or the Monkey King. He is "the creative idiot, the wise fool, the gray-haired baby, the cross-dresser, the speaker of sacred profanities." He is the mythical embodiment of doubleness and duplicity, ambivalence and paradox.

Trickster is the great shape-shifter who thrives on the road and enjoys being a disruptive and antisocial character. Hyde discusses artists and writers who have incarnated these values with their imaginative works — Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp, John Cage, Allen Ginsberg, and Maxine Hong Kingston. This erudite and scholarly work ranges freely all over the landscape of Western culture. It is recommended for voracious readers who want to explore the interface between mischief, myth, and art.