Ishmael:An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit, by Daniel Quinn

Cover ImageFinished 12-6-08, rating 3/5, fiction, pub. 1992

“TEACHER seeks pupil.  Must have an earnest desire to save the world.  Apply in person.”   -Chapter 1

The narrator of this book answers this ad in the local paper and finds a full-grown gorilla, Ishmael, waiting for him in an office.  Ishmael and the narrator can talk to each other and Ishmael shares the truth about the history of the world and mankind.  The narrator is a willing, if somewhat daft, student and becomes convinced that everything the gorilla says is true, from his take on overpopulation and how it relates to feeding starving people to the destructive things Mother Culture teaches us that are ruining the planet.

Jason and I read this together and it took us over 6 months and not because it was long!  This book is an overly repetitive philosophy lesson.  It has some really interesting and thought-provoking ideas, but went out of the way to repeat each idea ten different ways so that it made me feel like I was back in school with a bad teacher.  There was no plot or storyline to follow, just a guy listening to a gorilla tell him what was wrong with the world and how to fix it. 

Okay, so if I disliked it so much why did I give it 3 stars?  The ideas themselves were good.  It didn’t necessarily change my view of the world, but it did reinforce some of what I already believed about man’s need to conquer the world at any cost.  Jason’s favorite part was the retelling of the Cain & Abel story to fit the philosophies of Ishmael. 

If you are looking for a good story, skip it.  If you want to be exposed to different ideas about the our society and the world I think you’ll probably get a lot out the book.  It won the Turner Tomorrow Fellowship , a half million dollar prize, when it was published.