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Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit Paperback – May 1 1995

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam; Reissue edition (May 1 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553375407
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553375404
  • Product Dimensions: 13.4 x 1.8 x 20.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 136 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (683 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #5,008 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Quinn ( Dreamer ) won the Turner Tomorrow Award's half-million-dollar first prize for this fascinating and odd book--not a novel by any conventional definition--which was written 13 years ago but could not find a publisher. The unnamed narrator is a disillusioned modern writer who answers a personal ad ("Teacher seeks pupil. . . . Apply in person.") and thereby meets a wise, learned gorilla named Ishmael that can communicate telepathically. The bulk of the book consists entirely of philosophical dialogues between gorilla and man, on the model of Plato's Republic. Through Ishmael, Quinn offers a wide-ranging if highly general examination of the history of our civilization, illuminating the assumptions and philosophies at the heart of many global problems. Despite some gross oversimplifications, Quinn's ideas are fairly convincing; it's hard not to agree that unrestrained population growth and an obsession with conquest and control of the environment are among the key issues of our times. Quinn also traces these problems back to the agricultural revolution and offers a provocative rereading of the biblical stories of Genesis. Though hardly any plot to speak of lies behind this long dialogue, Quinn's smooth style and his intriguing proposals should hold the attention of readers interested in the daunting dilemmas that beset our planet. 50,000 first printing; major ad/promo.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Winner of the Turner Tomorrow Fellowship, a literary competition intended to foster works of fiction that present positive solutions to global problems, this book offers proof that good ideas do not necessarily equal good literature. Ishmael, a gorilla rescued from a traveling show who has learned to reason and communicate, uses these skills to educate himself in human history and culture. Through a series of philosophical conversations with the unnamed narrator, a disillusioned Sixties idealist, Ishmael lays out a theory of what has gone wrong with human civilization and how to correct it, a theory based on the tenet that humanity belongs to the planet rather than vice versa. While the message is an important one, Quinn rarely goes beyond a didactic exposition of his argument, never quite succeeding in transforming idea into art. Despite this, heavy publicity should create demand. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/91.
- Lawrence Rungren, Bedford Free P.L., Mass.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Nails on July 4 2004
Format: Paperback
Well, I just finished reading this book for the first time a few days ago. I was presented with an idea that had never been brought fully to my senses. I personally am going through a huge mind change in my everyday life... not all credit goes to this book, but much of it can. Those who say all this hub-bub about the author being a poor writer and being an arrogant SOB therefore his book is not worth reading, (which those who criticize in this way are being arrogant in the first place; ie. contempt and disregard) really does not change my mind about this book having significance. The reason i think arrogance comes across is because of the importance of the issue... i don't think it is because of self-importance as some have suggested. I think the author is just trying to raise awareness about a big problem. With that being the goal lets see if these negative Nelly's who take all the flaws that they have assumed the author has made can get off their high horse of intellectual supremacy and get down to the basic principles being taught here. If you evaluate anything that is said by anyone it is all propaganda (if i understand the words meaning) to each ones own will... so lets stop with those remarks as well. To tell you the truth I just wanted to write this review to keep those darn smart people from discouraging us regular people from reading this book. I'm sure it has things that someone might disagree with and I'm sure some might think that they are much too smart to be fooled in such a dogmatic way, but the objective of this book- which i believe it achieved - is simple..... SOMETHING NEEDS TO CHANGE. And you cannot argue with that.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 23 2004
Format: Paperback
Ishmael, if I may put it blatantly, is a phenomenal book. Yes, it preaches; yes, it makes extreme generalizations; yes, it probably isn't a good read for anyone with a closed mind. And yes, it is dangerous. But I feel that many people can take something away with them after reading Ishmael. This is my personal experience with the book. I concede that what happened with me is probably rare and doesn't happen on a regular basis.
I was lent the book by another high school student in my Spanish class. Denise was on a mission to change the world, and she was doing it one book at a time. I read the book once, then read it again. It took a couple times for the stuff to sink in, but when it DID sink in... wow. They were EXPLAINING things that people had never seemed to address, and everything fell into place and it made sense and I became angry and upset with what I was convinced this world had turned into. I wanted to drop out of school after reading My Ishmael, the companion to Ishmael; I wanted to run away and hitch-hike my way out of my life; I wanted to stand outside and scream that everything was a LIE, that there wasn't a point to ANYTHING. I suppose you could liken it to a full-blown adolescent crisis. Eventually my internal din quieted down, however, and I took a serious look at Ishmael.
Doing that was what changed everything. It was the first time I'd ever looked at anything critically, that I'd ever had a reason for critiquing something on my own. I learned how seamless an argument could be. I realized that everything can be seen from a totally different point of view. And there was a bunch of other stuff that would be far too sentimental to post here.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 12 1999
Format: Paperback
This is an interesting book in that it indicts human civilization for covering up a 'true' cultural history and for being creative rational beings. I wouldn't mind if the author attempted to back up the thesis with solid evidence or at least good analysis, but the author attempts to convince the reader by invoking wishful environmentalist thinking while showing a lack of understanding of biological, ecological and physical processes. I kept wishing that the human questioner would have taken one course in environmental biology and studied just a bit of physics. Then, instead of asking 'Gee Whiz!' style questions of the ape, he could have grilled him. That would have been interesting! Of course, many would argue that the scales haven't fallen from my eyes yet - that just by criticizing it shows that I didn't get it. If you dislike the cold glare of logic, analysis and reason, and are more interested in basking in the warming glow of sociological anthropology and emotion, read this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Travis J. Mcdermott on April 29 2002
Format: Paperback
Like some others in here, I would actually rate this book a 3 or 4, but since when I check out a book one of the first things I read are the negative reviews, I thought I'd throw my $.02 in here. For those who insist that this book "doesn't back up assumptions with facts" or that it's "just another new age diatribe" I'd suggest following up a reading of Ishmael with Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs, and Steel" which not only won a Pulitzer, but backs up nearly everthing Quinn postulates about "how things came to be this way."
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Cari Rich on Feb. 21 2004
Format: Paperback
Although I wouldn't categorize this book as "life changing", I also don't agree with many reviewers that _Ishmael_ is a waste of time or poorly written.
Granted, the protagonist of this story is quite dense and the premise of the "Takers" and the "Leavers" is pretty redundant at times... and okay-- the ideas expressed aren't exactly new or original. I'll give the negative reviewers that.
But... this book makes you think. I originally read it for a Sociology project in college and have re-read it 3 or 4 times since. Its simplicity and repetition makes the concepts easy to understand. I don't agree with other reviewers that you have to be stupid to find value in the arguments in this book. They are clear, concise, and well-articulated.
I'm not a theologian or a philosophy scholar but I am interested in making our world a safer place for ALL creatures. This book reaffirmed my beliefs that we--as humans--have overstepped our bounds in regards to our use and destruction of the earth.
Read this book. Make up your own mind. You're not stupid for wanting your arguments to be spelled out concretely.
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