turn the page: my ishmael by daniel quinn
Some books are just books you read them and they entertain you and then they leave you alone – you put them down and you walk away from them. I’ve read many of these kinds of books and of course there is nothing wrong with them – they serve the purpose they were intended to serve. Then there are books like My Ishmael which you know will carry on a conversation with you even after you read the last word. This book uses the lessons taught to Julie Gerchak by a silverback gorilla named Ishmael to throw light upon a way of thinking that might never occur to a person, but which seems obvious once pointed out. It simultaneously holds up a mirror that illuminates consideration of what it means to be a human being in the world today and offers possibilities for how we might be something else. I keep being drawn to a comparison in my head between this book and Pay It Forward – both of them being built around simple ideas; simple ideas with the potential to turn things on their head, and the way that they achieve the transmission of this idea. It’s obvious when you think about it that the method of teaching described by Ishmael to Julie is a parallel to how Daniel Quinn is teaching us using this tale – to draw the understanding and the ideas out of us. We make an agreement with the book in the same way Julie makes an agreement with Ishmael. Perhaps if more ideas were transmitted in this way – so that they appeared less didactic than they often do – then people might be able to stomach the lessons that were being offered. It’s a pleasant thing to have both your intellectual side stimulated and your emotional side engaged so that the ideas expressed and the unfolding narrative work seamlessly in tandem. Learning doesn’t have to be painful or boring and stories don’t have to be mere entertainment. The book is easy to read and it makes you think and it makes you feel – not many books can claim any of these things; one that can claim all three is surely worth investigating.