Quinn, Daniel. Ishmael. Bantam trade pbk. ed. New York: Bantam/Turner Book, 19951992. Print.

Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit

Written by: Daniel Quinn

Review by: Aaron Glazer

Recommended audience: Adults

Ishmael begins with an unnamed man who reads a newspaper advertisement from a teacher looking for a pupil with “an earnest desire to save the world.” The next day he proceeds to the office address located on the advertisement. After looking around for a few minutes, he finds a speaking gorilla behind a glass barrier. He lets this profound event sink in for a few minutes, and then the gorilla, formerly know by zoo-goers as Goliath, tells about how a man once came into the local zoo at which he stayed, said “You are not Goliath, you are Ishmael,”—and then goes on a pretentious tangent about how he didn’t say his name isn’t Goliath, the man said that he isn’t Goliath—and then bought him from that zoo and brought him home. This all made Ishmael, or Goliath, or whatever, simply think, “Why?” (also known as the most pretentious question ever to be asked by anyone, ever).

He has a conversation with the unnamed man about the creation of the universe and “how things came to be this way,” in which he helps that man understand that the universe wasn’t made for humans—we are just another species in the everlasting cycle of evolution and life. He talks about how humans broke this rule by eliminating competition amongst all other species by choosing to rule the world. He then calls humanity a “flying civilization” whereas we previously were a walking civilization by not eliminating competition. And as mankind’s “flying civilization” slowly falls to the ground, he thinks, “So far I haven’t crashed, so everything must be alright.” They embark on a journey to discover what civilizational rules to follow in order to make a proper “flying civilization.”

Author’s webpage for the book:

Book description:

Interview with author Daniel Quinn:


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