Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Reading Ishmael Pt. 1

Posted by Amy Baranski

It's Valentine's and I'm cozied up to a warm cup of Midnight Blue tea listening to Life in a Glasshouse by Radiohead at Victrola. It's perfect.
Reading Ishmael at the Broadview branch library.

I finished Ishmael today.

What an interesting and completely unexpected book. I knew next to nothing about it before picking it up. My friend Christina gave it to me in 2008. A couple years later, when a writing professor from Valparaiso was staying at our house, it came up in conversation. She eyed it on our big bookshelf and said her students often talked it up in class. She was curious what the fuss was as all about. I told her I'd read about 10 or so pages and wasn't compelled to read further. Thus making it, even two more years later, an excellent candidate for Read a Book a Week month.

When I posted on Facebook that I was currently reading Ishmael I received some interesting comments from a cluster of people I've met at during different decades of my timeline, people whom I have admired, and who know nothing of each other:
  • "I read it for the first time in high school shortly after it came out. it held up pretty well shortly after college but I have since read some of his other books and he has one really good argument. But I am not sure it can really sustain more than one book. Ishmael is by far the best."
  • "I love Ishamel!!!! I read that in high school! Oh I love that book!"
  • "Read that many moons ago! Such a good one!"
Melissa, or perhaps it was Jamie, offered that Ishmael was one of those books that develops a cult following like the Celestine Prophecy or The Secret. I wondered what I had gotten myself into. 

Then Melissa sent me a email asking what kind of book was I reading. Her email contained a link to an article published in the Christian Science Monitor: "My Ishmael" by Daniel Quinn: Why did gunman James Jae Lee embrace this book?

Curious indeed.


Cassandra said...

Curious indeed! I have not read it.

Matthew Mace Thomas Riley esquire jr XIV said...

I read it about a year ago........I have questions, one being did I really like it or did I just want myself into thinking I liked it. The top layer is nice,the middle is interesting.....and the bottom is somewhat unclear to me to this day. Can you offer clarity to me in 4 sentences or less? What was your key take away?

Amy Baranski said...

I plan to cover more of the key take-aways in blog post Pt. 2. But here's my first stab at it...

1. We are the environment.
2. The knowledge/wisdom of indigenous cultures should be central to our modern understanding of our role in the environment.
3. Our mistakes can serve to make us stronger.
4. We must re-tell our stories so that points #2 and #3 can manifest.

Amy Baranski said...

@Cassandra nice to see you back on the comments threads we were missing you!

Alton Altars said...

I feel this is an important book. I want to someday teach a class on Tribal consciousness and use this as the main text. its an important book in that it allows us to conceive of the idea that maybe our cultural Zeitgeist is not the best for us. To try and re-imagine something different. Listening to Morris Berman talk at Town Hall, basically he said the whole system needs to collapse in order for us to make this happen and he has yet to see a historical alternative. Quinn seems to say we can incorporate the wisdom of the primary cultures into a new format. I like this idea. But part of me also agrees with Berman.Read Sacred Pleasure by Riane Eisler or Dourley"s the Illness that we are, about Theopathology

Mr Mateo Head said...

I dig the blog so much I even check back in!! Thank you AB, clarity afforded is clarity appreciated. Read on and may this month find you stumble across the words, "Who is John Galt?"

Amy Baranski said...

Alton Altars -thank you for your comment. I'll have to check out Berman, Eisler, and Dourley. No idea what Theopathology is but looking that up now.

Amy Baranski said...

Mr. Mateo Head, I've posted Pt. 2 of Reading Ishmael. Let me know if it jogs those little gray cells.

Melissa Baumgart said...

Mateo, I had NO idea who John Galt was. I had to google it, you are so totally intellectual. I hear that is your favorite book.