Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Book Review: Ishmael

I normally bring about five, normally non-fiction, books on holidays or trips with me - and promptly don't get time to do more than flip through one or two whilst on the toilet.  On my recent trip to Chi-town, I originally decided 'no books' as part of a great plan of 'low informative dieting' and to be in alignment with my current idea of diminishing returns on intellectual knowledge (more later). ..however, I decided to bring one book, an odd novel by Daniel Quinn entitled Ishmael: an adventure of the Mind and Spirit.

I picked this book up whilst Kit and I were trawling through his vast library of musty tomes, but hadn't got around to reading it.  I figured, what with two 12hr flights and multiple stop overs and smaller flights, I'd get a chance to finally read it, and am very glad I did bring it (and read it).

" Teacher seeks pupil. Must have an earnest desire to save the world. Apply in person."  

Reads the blurb on the back, and indeed this is the advertisement that causes the Narrator so much cognitive dissonance in the opening pages.  The book is centered around the dialogue between teacher and pupil (the Narrator); and, as Ishmael (the teacher) states - the main teaching of the book is captivity.

Traversing ecology; history; anthropology; socio-cultural conditioning; cultural amnesia and the mythic structures of societies (especially our own, current, society), it is a truly fascinating read, and at 253 pages is almost a straight read.  As one of the reviews from the back cover says, you get entrapped in the dialogue as chapter builds upon chapter in a perfect 'peeling the onion' type way. 

Another review, this time from the front cover reads:

"From now on I will divide the books I have read into two categories - the ones I read before Ishmael and those read after" - Jim Britell, Whole Earth Review

If I hadn't read so many other books on the topics in this book it would have had a more profound effect on me.. quite possibly it would make a paradigm shifting read for those who are still looking around at society and wondering why they have an eerie suspicion that something akin to The Matrix is happening, for real.  It would be perfect as an English novel for high school students (the only one I liked, or even remember, from my schooling was Brave New World).

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