Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn

What an odd book!   A good indicator though is when a novel generates polarizing reviews not so much about the writing or dialogue but about the underlying message, decrying it or praising it as socialist, anarchist, green, etc.

So here's the deal:   our narrator is a former hippie, now professional writer, cynical and depressed.   He answers an ad "teacher seeks pupil ... apply in person," and meets his teacher.   Who happens to be a well educated gorilla (Ishmael) who speaks telepathically.

Don't let this part put you off; it is well done and shortly you hardly notice.   A bit weird, yes, but no harm done.  It is, after all, a novel.

The notion of Ishmael's lessons is that mankind sees themselves as gods, answering to no one, and in complete control of the world, with which we may do as we like.   As a consequence, the world's ecosystem is fraying, or as Ishmael describes it, man views the world (living and inanimate ecosystems) the way one might imagine the pilot of a primitive attempt at an aircraft views his flight in a non-aerodynamic glider launched from a high mountain -- it seems to be flying when really it is just descending to its inevitable crash landing.

This is actually very well done, and is not preachy at all.   It is a fast, thought provoking read.   I recommend it.

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