My roommate has long been suggesting me to read Ishmael by Daniel Quinn, a sort of philosophical book on human nature and how we, as a society, got here. It’s probably not the first one of such books.
The story is not a conventional one. The book starts by introducing the protagonist, a writer whose identity is left mostly unknown. He is seeking a ‘teacher’ and stumbles on an advert in a newspaper. Not before long, he is conversing with a 500 pound gorilla, telepathically. The animal is Ishmael, a wise creature who knows the stories of past and current human generations, all of which the book’s protagonist wants to learn.
The story is simplistic, yet epic at the same time. It spans through the birth of the universe, the dawn of man until to the global society we live in. What makes the book’s story interesting is the dialogue between the protagonist and Ishmael. The open-ended questions of Ishmael engage the reader to think and to provide answers. And there’s always bonus points to be awarded for telepathic animals with a higher IQ than the most of us.
The story-telling turns a little bit dreary for my taste, however. The last thing I need in this era of depressing environmental news and hyper-consumerism is even more cynicism, which Ishmael delivers with a straight uppercut on each chapter.
I have to let Ishmael sink in. For the better part of the book I was intrigued by the story but also felt depressed by it. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to fill the void inside me with some Asian take-away.