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The Ishmael trilogy is a great source for ideas on how civilization emerged and is maintained---and ultimately how it might collapse and annhiliate our species! The trilogy is presented with a loose narrative thread--some in socratic dialogue, and one in a quite suspenseful historical conspiracy tone ala The DaVinci Code. The trilogy is (in this order):-Ishmael-The Story of B-My IshmaelAlso, a more distilled and concise summary if the ideas can be found in Quinn's "Beyond Civilization". It a really quick and easy, yet incisive and compelling, read.I'm sure many here are already familiar with Quinn's work. I'd really like to hear what you think about it.Thanks!
Beyond Civilization:Humanity's Next Great AdventureAmazon.comFuturist Daniel Quinn (Ishmael) dares to imagine a new approach to saving the world that involves deconstructing civilization. Quinn asks the radical yet fundamental questions about humanity such as, Why does civilization grow food, lock it up, and then make people earn money to buy it back? Why not progress "beyond civilization" and abandon the hierarchical lifestyles that cause many of our social problems? He challenges the "old mind" thinking that believes problems should be fixed with social programs. "Old minds think: How do we stop these bad things from happening?" Quinn writes. "New minds think: How do we make things the way we want them to be?"Whether he is discussing Amish farming, homelessness, "tribal business," or holy work, Quinn's manifesto is highly digestible. Instead of writing dense, weighty chapters filled with self-important prose, he's assembled a series of brief one-page essays. His language is down to earth, his metaphors easy to grasp. As a result, readers can read about and ponder Beyond Civilization at a blissfully civilized pace. --Gail Hudson
Book DescriptionIf a team of Martian anthropologists were to study our culture, their initial findings might read something like this: These people have the strange idea that the thing they call civilization is some sort of final, unsurpassable invention. Even though vast numbers of them suffer in this oppressively hierarchical system, and even though it appears to be plunging them toward a global catastrophe, they cling to it as if it were the most wonderful thing (as they quaintly say) since sliced bread. That a more agreeable (and less catastrophic) system exists BEYOND civilization, seems to be entirely unthinkable to them. In Beyond Civilization, Daniel Quinn has made it his task to think the unthinkable. We all know there's no one right way to build a bicycle, no one right way to design an automobile, no one right way to construct a pair of shoes, but we're convinced there must be only one right way for people to live--and the one we have is it, no matter what. Even if we hate it, we must cling to it. Even if it drags us to the brink of extinction, we must not let it go. Many other peoples have built civilizations--and then walked away from them. Quinn examines the Maya, the Olmec, the people of Teotihuacn, and others, who did just that. But they all walked away moving backward--to an earlier lifestyle. Quinn's goal in this book is to show how we can walk away moving forward, to a new lifestyle, one which encourages diversity instead of suppressing it. Not a "New World Order," but rather a New Personal Order. Not legislative change at the governmental level, but rather incremental change at the human level. This is a guidebook for people who want to assert control over their destiny and recover the freedom to live at a scale and in a style of their own choosing--and starting now, today, not in some distant utopian future.
From Publishers WeeklyQuinn ( 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 the Hardcover edition. From Library JournalWinner 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... read more --This text refers to the Hardcover edition. Book DescriptionThe narrator of this extraordinary tale is a man in search for truth. He answers an ad in a local newspaper from a teacher looking for serious pupils, only to find himself alone in an abandoned office with a full-grown gorilla who is nibbling delicately on a slender branch. "You are the teacher?" he asks incredulously. "I am the teacher," the gorilla replies. Ishmael is a creature of immense wisdom and he has a story to tell, one that no other human being has ever heard. It is a story that extends backward and forward over the lifespan of the earth from the birth of time to a future there is still time save. Like all great teachers, Ishmael refuses to make the lesson easy; he demands the final illumination to come from within ourselves. Is it man's destiny to rule the world? Or is it a higher destiny possible for him-- one more wonderful than he has ever imagined?
From Kirkus ReviewsAnother irresistible rant from Quinn, a sequel to his Turner Tomorrow Fellowship winner, Ishmael (1992), concerning a great, telepathic ape who dispenses ecological wisdom about the possible doom of humankind. Once more, Quinn focuses on the Leavers and Takers, his terms for the two basic, warring kinds of human sensibility. The planet's original inhabitants, the Leavers, were nomadic people who did no harm to the earth. The Takers, who have generally overwhelmed them, began as aggressive farmers obsessed with growth, were the builders of cities and empires, and have now, in the late 20th century, largely run out of space to monopolize. Quinn's books have not featured many memorable characters, aside from Ishmael. This time out, though, he invents a lively figure, 12-year-old Julie Gerchak, who is tough and wise beyond her years, having had to deal with a self-destructive, alcoholic mother. Julie responds to Ishmael's ad seeking a pupil with an earnest desire to save the world (a conceit carried over from the earlier novel). Once again, the gentle ape shares his wisdom in a series of questions and answers that resemble, in method, a blend of the Socratic dialogues and programmed learning. Moving beyond his theories about Leavers and Takers, Ishmael presents a detailed critique of educational systems around the world, suggesting that their function is not to usefully educate but to regulate the flow of workers into a Taker society. This is all very well, but what does Ishmael/Quinn suggest be done to redeem the Takers, and to save the earth? Quinn seems to want to sketch out how change might come about, but it's never fully explored. Instead, the novel is increasingly taken up with the mysteries surrounding Ishmael's travels and fate. This is the weakest of Quinn's novels, but his ideas are as thought-provoking as ever, even so. (Author tour) -- Copyright
From Publishers WeeklyQuinn returns to fiction after a five-year hiatus with a sequel of sorts to Ishmael, winner of the Turner Tomorrow Award in 1991. Like its controversial predecessor, this book is not really a novel, but an extended Socratic dialogue that promulgates the same animist solutions to global problems that the author recorded last year in his spiritual autobiography, Providence: The Story of a Fifty-Year Vision Quest. The narrator, Jared Osborne, is a priest of the Laurentians, a fictional Roman Catholic order under an ancient, covert mandate to stand watch against the coming of the Antichrist. Although skeptical, Jared is enjoined by his superior to investigate Charles Atterley, an expatriate American preacher known to his followers as "B." Allowing Jared into his inner circle in Munich, B soon dispels both the concern that he is the Antichrist and the shivery intimations of apocalypse that make the opening chapters darkly intriguing. Through long, often numbingly repetitive parables and speeches, B instructs Jared in the solutions to overpopulation, ecological despoliation, cultural intolerance and other ills that have dogged civilization since the time of "the Great Forgetting" 10,000 years ago. B's smug pontificating and his disciples' unquestioning devotion reduces them to interchangeable mouthpieces for Quinn's philosophies. As a result, Jared's spiritual conversion away from Roman Catholicism and toward Quinn-ism, intended to be the book's dramatic high point, falls painfully flat. Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. From Library JournalQuinn, author of the best-selling cult classic Ishmael (LJ 12/91), returns with another quasispiritual tale about a priest who awaits the arrival of the Antichrist.Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. Book DescriptionThe Story of B combines Daniel Quinn's provocative and visionary ideas with a masterfully plotted story of adventure and suspense in this stunning, resonant novel that is sure to stay with readers long after they have finished the last page. Father Jared Osborne--bound by a centuries-old mandate held by his order to know before all others that the Antichrist is among us--is sent to Europe on a mission to find a peripatetic preacher whose radical message is attracting a growing circle of followers. The target of Osborne's investigation is an American known only as B. He isn't teaching New Age platitudes or building a fanatical following; instead, he is quietly uncovering the hidden history of our planet, redefining the fall of man, and retracing a path of human spirituality that extends millions of years into the past. From the beginning, Fr. Osborne is stunned, outraged, and awed by the simplicity and profundity of B's teachings. Is B merely a heretic--or is he the Antichrist sent to seduce humanity not with wickedness, but with ideas more alluring than those of traditional religion? With surprising twists and fascinating characters, The Story of B answers this question as it sends readers on an intellectual journey that will forever change the way they view spirituality, human history, and, indeed, the state of our present world.