Sunday, August 26, 2007

Review of "My Ishmael"

If the original book, Ishmael, is the primer, then its sequel My Ishmael must be the shiny, colorful, mind-blowing layer of paint that makes a room...THE ROOM.

I sort of reviewed the first Ishmael book on this blog. My Ishmael is actually the third of Daniel Quinn's "An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit" Trilogy - The Story of B being the second installment - but I had to revisit my gorilla friend before reading the apparently non-gorilla-centric second novel.

The time frame of My Ishmael is concurrent with the time frame of the original novel. We learn that Ishmael, the wise and telepathic gorilla, is the teacher of two students: Alan Lomax, the previously unnamed adult student from the first novel, and Julie Gerchak, a twelve year old that Ishmael initially is hesitant to take as his student. The bulk of the novel is a Socratic dialogue between Ishmael and his young student.

The content of Ishmael's "lesson plan" with Julie is truly eye-opening! Their interaction is much more graceful than Ishmael and Alan's from the first book. Deficiencies from the first book were addressed and resolved, and the new topics - just for Julie - were more novel to me than were Alan's topics, most of which I had picked up prior to reading the first book.

Ishmael's (well, the author Quinn's) insight on "Taker" education - that is, post-agricultural, post-industrial education - is extremely refreshing. The chapters entitled "School Daze" and "School Daze II" are worth the price of admission, and you'll get more on top of that! Whether you've done well or average or poorly in school, after reading those two chapters, you'll feel like a pawn for squandering time that could otherwise be more beneficial to yourself, and by extension, the community of life. At least, I felt like that. It might not be the best feeling in the world to make that sort of discovery, but it's good to know.

I wasn't too impressed with the first book's "story" chapters, for lack of a better term. Ishmael's strength is the (sometimes tedious) dialogue between Ishmael and Alan. My Ishmael's story chapters are far superior.

I'm going to start the second book The Story of B as soon as possible. I'm guessing since we're talking about philosophical novels, and not epic Middle-earth trilogies, it's okay for me to read the first book first, the third book second, and the second book last.

I do recommend reading Ishmael first because it was definitely a primer for My Ishmael. Reading the third book before the first book would actually spoil a lot of "story" details introduced in the first book, anyway. If anything, reading Ishmael is also a good litmus test to see if it's worth your time to read the sequels. If the first book pissed you off, then it would be a good idea to skip the other books, and probably anything by Daniel Quinn isn't for you. And if you enjoyed the first book, then go on to either The Story of B, which I still have to do, or My Ishmael, which I wholeheartedly recommend.

1 comment:

  1. I actually think a lot of people who don't like some of the other books might enjoy Beyond Civilization. In fact, I've changed from recommending Ishmael to recommending Beyond Civilization to a lot of people who may only read one of the books in the series.



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