My Ishmael: A Sequel

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The gorilla licked his lips - nervously, it seemed to me. "I think we can safely say that I'm not prepared to deal with the needs of a person your age. I think that can be safely said. Yes." "You mean you give up. Is that what you're telling me? You want me to go away because you give up. Don't you think a twelve-year-old girl can have an earnest desire to save the world?" "I don't doubt it," he said, though the words sounded like they were pretty hard to get out. "Then why won't you talk to me? Your ad in the ...
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My Ishmael

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The gorilla licked his lips - nervously, it seemed to me. "I think we can safely say that I'm not prepared to deal with the needs of a person your age. I think that can be safely said. Yes." "You mean you give up. Is that what you're telling me? You want me to go away because you give up. Don't you think a twelve-year-old girl can have an earnest desire to save the world?" "I don't doubt it," he said, though the words sounded like they were pretty hard to get out. "Then why won't you talk to me? Your ad in the paper said you need a pupil. Isn't that what it said?" "That's what it said." "Well, you've got one. Here I am." With these words we meet Julie Gerchak, one of the most engaging young heroes since Huckleberry Finn - and one of Ishmael's most challenging and rewarding disciples. Unable to justify turning her away, Ishmael accepts the daunting task of juggling two pupils of widely differing characters - one of whom (Julie) insists on remaining unknown to the other (Alan Lomax, known to the readers of Ishmael as the narrator of that book.) Julie is unquestionably bright (quite possibly brighter than Alan), but she's also shy of his educational background by ten years! This means Ishmael can by no means follow the same strategy with each - or expect the same outcome from each. Alan and Julie don't just take different routes with their simian mentor, they end up in very different places. But something else distinguishes Ishmael's relationship with Julie. When the infrastructure of his life begins to crumble, Ishmael must choose one of his students to entrust with a great secret and a great mission. And, surprisingly, his choice falls not on the older, more experienced student but on the younger one. In revealing the mission and the secret entrusted to her, Julie pens a conclusion to the Ishmael saga that will raise cheers from his fans all around the world.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
The national bestseller and underground classic that has changed the way readers (including Oprah Winfrey) say they view the world, Daniel Quinn's 1992 book Ishmael has become a testament to a burgeoning spiritual movement. Now, five years after winning the Turner Tomorrow Fellowship — a prize honoring fiction that offers creative and positive solutions to global problems — Quinn offers his follow-up, My Ishmael.

In My Ishmael, the Ishmael saga takes a startling direction that is in no way prefigured by the original. Julie Gerchak is one of the most engaging young heroes since Huckleberry Finn — and one of Ishmael's most challenging and rewarding disciples. Unable to justify turning her away, the gorilla accepts the daunting task of juggling two pupils of widely differing characters, one of whom (Julie) insists on remaining unknown to the other (Alan Lomax, the narrator of Ishmael). Julie is unquestionably bright, quite possibly brighter than Alan, but she's also shy of his educational background by ten years. It is clear that Ishmael can by no means follow the same strategy with both, or expect the same outcome. Alan and Julie take different routes with their simian mentor and end up in very different places.

But something else distinguishes Ishmael's relationship with Julie. When the infrastructure of his life begins to crumble, Ishmael must choose one of his students to entrust with a great secret and a great mission. Surprisingly, his choice falls not on the older, more experienced student but on the younger one. Revealing the missionandthe secret entrusted to her, Julie pens a conclusion to the Ishmael story that will raise cheers from his fans around the world.

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In 1989, Ted Turner offered a $500,000 fellowship for a work of fiction that offered positive solutions to global problems. Out of 2500 entries worldwide, Quinn's quirky first novel, Ishmael, won the prize (which after some controversy, was never awarded again). The book featured a wise, telepathic gorilla who engaged in Socratic dialogue with a young man, teaching him how he could help save the world from its self-destructive path. In this predictable sequel, disenchanted 12-year-old Julie Gerchak responds to a classified ad: "Teacher seeks pupil. Must have an earnest desire to save the world." So begins a 300-page lecture by a silverback gorilla who expounds his theories on the suicidal plunge of contemporary culture (the Takers) and his belief that learning from tribal cultures (the Leavers) is our only path to survival. The simian scholar tries to distill thousands of years of human wisdom and experience into a few simplistic preachments and parables. Despite the author's claim that Julie represents a new challenge to Ishmael, the little girl is no Phaedrus, and in any case the gorilla hardly seems to need an interlocutor. His reflections are a novel like a two-by-four is a pine tree. Fans will buy; others may content themselves with the Web site. Major ad/promo; author tour. (Nov.)
Library Journal
In this sequel to Quinn's controversial best seller, Ishmael, the telepathic gorilla has another pupil intent on saving the world: 12-year-old Julie Gerchak.
Kirkus Reviews
Another 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.

From the Publisher
"Enthralling, shocking, hope-filled, and utterly fearless, Quinn leads us deeper and deeper into the human heart, history, and spirit.  Thank God the gorilla is back! In My Ishmael, Quinn strikes out into entirely new territory, posing questions that will rock you on your heels, and providing tantalizing possibilities for a truly new world vision."
—Susan Chernak McElroy, author of Animals as Teachers & Healers

"Irresistible...[Quinn's] ideas are as thought-provoking as ever."
—Kirkus Reviews

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780553106367
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 11/3/1997
  • Pages: 274
  • Product dimensions: 6.33 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.02 (d)

Meet the Author

Daniel Quinn's first book, Ishmael, won the Turner Tomorrow Fellowship, a prize for fiction presenting creative and positive solutions to global problems.  He is also the author of Providence, The Story of B, and My Ishmael.

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Read an Excerpt

There was a second chair in place when I arrived on Friday, and I didn't like it one bit—not the chair itself, of course, but rather the very idea of sharing my Ishmael with anyone, selfish minx that I am. But at least it was not as nice as the friendly old broken-down one I was used to. I pretended it wasn't there, and we got started.

"Among her friends in college," Ishmael began, "my benefactor, Rachel Sokolow, counted a young man named Jeffrey, whose father was an affluent surgeon. Jeffrey became an important person in many lives at this time and later, because he presented people with a problem. He couldn't figure out what to do with himself. He was physically attractive, intelligent, personable, and talented at almost anything he turned his hand to. He could play the guitar well, though he had no interest in a musical career. He could take a good photograph, produce a good sketch, play the lead in a school play, and write an entertaining story or a provocative essay, but he didn't want to be a photographer, an artist, an actor, or a writer. He did well in all his classes but didn't want to be a teacher or a scholar and wasn't interested in following his father's footsteps or in pursuing a career in law, the sciences, mathematics, business, or politics. He was drawn to things of the spirit and was an occasional churchgoer but didn't care to become a theologian or a clergyman. In spite of all this, he seemed "well-adjusted,' as it's called. He wasn't notably phobic or depressive or neurotic. He wasn't doubtful or confused about his sexual orientation. He figured he'd settle down and marry one day, but not until he'd found some purpose in life.

"Jeffrey's friends never tired of finding new ideas to present to him in hopes of awakening his interest. Wouldn't he enjoy reviewing films for the local newspaper? Had he ever thought of taking up scrimshaw or jewelry making? Cabinetry was put forward as a soul-satisfying occupation. How about fossil hunting? Gourmet cooking? Maybe he should get into Scouting. Or wouldn't it be fun to go on an archaeological dig? Jeffrey's father was completely sympathetic with his inability to discover an enthusiasm and ready to support him in whatever exploration he might find worthwhile. If a world tour had any appeal, a travel agent would be put to work on it. If he wanted to try the life of an outdoorsman, equipment would be supplied, gladly. If he wanted to take to the sea, a boat would be made ready. If he wanted to try his hand at pottery, he'd have a kiln waiting for him. Even if he just wanted to be a social butterfly, that would be fine. He shrugged it all off, politely, embarrassed to be putting everyone to so much trouble.

"I don't want to give you the impression he was lazy or spoiled. He was always at the top of his class, always held a part-time job, lived in ordinary student housing, didn't own a car. He just looked at the world that was on offer to him and couldn't see a single thing in it worth having. His friends kept saying to him, "Look, you can't go on this way. You've got too much going for you. You've just got to get some ambition, got to find something you want to do with your life!'

"Jeffrey graduated with honors but without a direction. After hanging around his father's house for the summer, he went to visit some college friends who had just gotten married. He took along his knapsack, his guitar, his journal. After a few weeks he set out to visit some other friends, hitchhiking. He was in no hurry. He stopped along the way, helped some people who were building a barn, earned enough money to keep going, and eventually reached his next destination. Soon it was getting on for winter and he headed home. He and his father had long conversations, played gin rummy, played pool, played tennis, watched football, drank beer, read books, went to movies.

"When spring came, Jeffrey bought a secondhand car and set out to visit friends in the other direction. People took him in wherever he went. They liked him and felt sorry for him, he was so rootless, so ineffectual, so unfocused. But they didn't give up on him. One person wanted to buy him a video camera so he could make a film of his wanderings. Jeffrey wasn't interested. Another person volunteered to send his poetry around to magazines to see if anyone would publish it. Jeffrey said that was fine, but personally, he didn't care one way or the other. After working at a boys' camp for the summer, he was asked to stay on as a permanent member of the staff, but it didn't appeal to him that much.

"When winter came, his father talked him into seeing a psychotherapist he knew and trusted. Jeffrey stuck with it throughout the winter, going three times a week, but in the end the therapist had to admit that, apart from being "a little immature,' there was nothing whatever wrong with him. Asked what "a little immature' meant, the therapist said Jeffrey was unmotivated, unfocused, and lacked goals—everything they already knew. "He'll find something in a year or two,' the therapist predicted. "And it'll probably be something very obvious. I'm sure it's staring him in the face right now, and he just doesn't see it.' When spring came, Jeffrey went back out on the road, and if something was staring him in the face, he went on being unable to see it.

"The years drifted by in this way. Jeffrey watched old friends get married, raise children, build careers, build businesses, win a little fame here, a little fortune there . . . while he went on playing his guitar, writing a poem now and then, and filling one journal after another. Just last spring he celebrated his thirty-first birthday with friends at a vacation cottage on a lake in Wisconsin. In the morning he walked down to the water, wrote a few lines in his journal, then waded into the lake and drowned himself."

"Sad," I said after a moment, unable to think of anything more brilliant.

"It's a commonplace story, Julie, except for one fact—the fact that Jeffrey's father made it possible for him to drift, actually supported him while he did nothing for nearly ten years—put no pressure on him to shape up and become a responsible adult. That's what made Jeffrey different from millions of other young people in your culture who in fact have no more motivation than he did. Or do you think I'm mistaken in this?"

"I don't understand you well enough to say whether you're mistaken."

"Thinking of the young people you know, do you find them burning to be out there becoming lawyers and bankers and engineers and cooks and hairstylists and insurance agents and bus drivers?"

"Some of them, yeah. Not especially to be the things you mentioned, hairstylists and bus drivers, but some things. I know kids who wouldn't mind being movie stars and professional athletes, for example."

"And what are their chances of becoming these things, realistically speaking?"

"Millions to one, I suppose."

"Do you think there are eighteen-year-olds out there dreaming of becoming cabdrivers or dental technicians or asphalt spreaders?"


"Do you think there are a lot of eighteen-year-olds out there who are like Jeffrey, who are not really attracted to anything in the Taker world of work? Who would be glad to skip it entirely if someone gave them an annual stipend of twenty or thirty thousand dollars?"

"God yes, if you put it like that, I'm sure there are. Are you kidding? Millions of them."

"But if there isn't anything they really want to do in the Taker world of work, why do they enter it at all? Why do they take jobs that are clearly not meaningful to them or to anyone else?"

"They take them because they have to. Their parents throw them out of the house. They either get jobs or starve."

"That's right. But of course in every graduating class there are a few who would just as soon starve. People used to call them tramps or bums or hobos. Nowadays they often characterize themselves as "homeless,' suggesting that they live on the street because they're forced to, not because they prefer to. They're runaways, beachcombers, ad hoc hookers and hustlers, muggers, bag ladies, and Dumpster divers. They scrounge a living one way or another. The food may be under lock and key, but they've found all the cracks in the strongroom wall. They roll drunks and collect aluminum cans. They panhandle, haunt restaurant garbage cans, and practice petty thievery. It isn't an easy life, but they'd rather live this way than get a meaningless job and live like the mass of urban poor. This is actually a very large subculture, Julie."

"Yeah, I recognize it now that you put it this way. I actually know kids who talk about wanting to go live on the street. They talk about going to specific cities where there are already a lot of kids doing it. I think Seattle is one."

"This phenomenon shades off into the phenomena of juvenile gangs and cults. When these street urchins are organized around charismatic warlords, they're perceived as gangs. When they're organized around charismatic gurus, they're perceived as cults. Children living on the street have a very low life expectancy, and it doesn't take them long to realize that. They see their friends die in their teens or early twenties, and they know their fate is going to be the same. Even so, they can't bring themselves to rent some hovel, collect some decent clothes, and try to get some stupid minimum-wage job they hate. Do you see what I'm saying, Julie? Jeffrey is just the upper-class representative of the phenomenon. The lower-class representatives don't have the privilege of drowning themselves in nice clean lakes in Wisconsin, but what they're doing comes to the same thing. They'd as soon be dead as join the ranks of ordinary urban paupers, and they generally are soon dead."

"I see all that," I told him. "What I don't see yet is the point you're making."

"I haven't really made a point yet, Julie. I'm drawing your attention to something the people of your culture want to pretend is of no importance, is irrelevant. The story of Jeffrey is terribly sad—but he's a rarity, isn't he? You might be concerned if there were thousands of Jeffreys walking into lakes. But young riffraff dying on your streets by the thousands is something you can safely ignore."

"Yes, that's true."

"What I'm looking at is something the people of your culture feel sure doesn't need to be looked at. These are drug addicts, losers, gangsters, trash. The adult attitude toward them is, "If they want to live like animals, let them live like animals. If they want to kill themselves off, let them kill themselves off. They're defectives, sociopaths, and misfits, and we're well rid of them."'

"Yeah, I'd say that's how most grown-ups feel about it."

"They're in a state of denial, Julie, and what is it they're denying?"

"They're denying that these are their children. These are somebody else's children."

"That's right. There is no message for you in a Jeffrey drowning himself in the lake or a Susie dying of an overdose in the gutter. There's no message for you in the tens of thousands who kill themselves annually, who disappear into the streets, leaving behind nothing but faces on milk cartons. This is no message. This is like static on the radio, something to be ignored, and the more you ignore it, the better the music sounds."

"Very true. But I'm still groping for your point."

"No one would think of asking themselves, "What do these children need?"'

"God no. Who cares what they need?"

"But you can ask yourself that, can't you? Can you bring yourself to it, Julie? Can you bear it?"

I sat there for a minute, staring at nothing, and suddenly the goddamnedest thing happened: I burst into tears. I exploded into tears. I sat there completely overwhelmed in great, huge racking sobs that wouldn't go away, wouldn't go away, until I began to think I'd found my life's work, to sit in that chair and sob.

When I began to settle down, I stood up, told Ishmael I'd be back in a while, and went out for a walk around the block—around a couple blocks, in fact.

Then I went back and told him I didn't know how to put it into words.

"You can't put the emotions into words, Julie. I know that. You put those into sobs, and there are no words equivalent to that. But there are other things you can put into words."

"Yeah, I suppose that's true."

"You had some sort of vision of the devastating loss you share with the young people we've been talking about."

"Yeah. I didn't know I shared it with them. I didn't know I shared anything with them."

"The first day you visited me, you said you're constantly telling yourself, "I've got to get out of here, I've got to get out of here.' You said this meant "Run for your life!"'

"Yeah. I guess you could say that's what I was feeling as I sat here crying. Please! Please let me run for my life! Please let me out of here! Please, let me go! Please don't keep me penned up here for the rest of my life! I've GOTTA run! I can't STAND this!"

"But these aren't thoughts you can share with your classmates."

"These aren't thoughts I could have shared with myself two weeks ago."

"You wouldn't have dared to look at them."

"No, if I'd looked at them, I would've said, "My God, what's wrong with me? I must have a disease of some kind!"'

"These are exactly the kinds of thoughts that Jeffrey wrote in his journal again and again. "What's wrong with me? What's wrong with me? There must be something terribly wrong with me that I'm unable to find joy in the world of work.' Always he wrote, "What's wrong with me, what's wrong with me, what's wrong with me?' And of course all his friends were forever saying to him, "What's wrong with you, what's wrong with you, what's wrong with you that you can't get with this wonderful program?' Perhaps you understand for the first time now that my role here is to bring you this tremendous news, that there's nothing wrong here with YOU. You are not what's wrong. And I think there was an element of this understanding in your sobs: "My God, it isn't me!"'

"Yes, you're right. Half of what I was feeling was a tremendous sense of relief."

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Table of Contents

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Interviews & Essays

On Monday, November 24th, welcomed Daniel Quinn to discuss MY ISHMAEL.

Moderator: Welcome to the Live Events Auditorium! Tonight, author Daniel Quinn is joining us to discuss his new book, MY ISHMAEL. Hello, Mr. Quinn, and thank you for joining us here tonight!

Daniel Quinn: Thank you very much, I appreciate the opportunity.

Isaak from NYC: What gave you the idea of having a gorilla as a teacher?

Daniel Quinn: The subtext of all my work is this: If we want to survive on this planet, we've got to start listening to our neighbors in the community of life. We've got to stop thinking that we humans have all the answers. So I was never going to use a human teacher in that role. As to why a gorilla, gorillas seemed the most impressive, and the most credible creature to use as a teacher.

Kerry Baker from Chicago: I loved ISHMAEL and am so glad you thought to write a sequel. Did you plan to write a sequel when you wrote ISHMAEL, or did it come up once you had completed it? Will there be a third piece?

Daniel Quinn: The sequel was not at all in my mind when I was writing the original, and it never occurred to me that I would be doing a sequel until just about a year ago. There is no plan for a third in the series, but I've learned never to say never.

Schmidt from Taylorsville, OH: Hello, Mr. Quinn, I've heard such wonderful things about your writing that I intend finally to read MY ISHMAEL. What's your favorite part of the story or the thing you most enjoyed writing yourself?

Daniel Quinn: Well, an interesting question -- I've never been asked about my personal favorites before. In MY ISHMAEL, I would say that my favorite part is the character of Julie, because she is just such a free and daring character.

Terri Galante from Pittsburgh, PA: I have read and enjoyed tremendously three of your books ISHMAEL, B, and PROVIDENCE. I find my way of thinking is undergoing a metamorphosis. However, I have two issues that I cannot resolve:
1 It seems to me that there are many people who, if they thought there weren't a God of retribution, would alter their behavior for the worse, breathing a sigh of relief that no one is "watching" them.

2 Shirin's discourse along the lines of the "survival of the fittest" seems to imply that our society's current value of all human life, to any extent, is ill-conceived. If so, might not people be able to interpret this in a Hitler-type fashion, wanting to exterminate or not nurture those not of value to them? Also, I was wondering if Mr. Quinn was familiar with James Taylor's new song "Gaia"? It has an Ishmael undertone in my mind. Also, the book THE EDUCATION OF LITTLE TREE by Forrest Carter seemed an enjoyable, interesting novel that echoed the animist theme.

Daniel Quinn: On the first issue, there are many moral and decent people who don't believe in a God of retribution; the God of retribution is a fairly recent construct of our culture, and so people have seemed to live decently for hundreds of thousands of years without being controlled by their fear of retribution. Secondly, the term "survival of the fittest" is not found anywhere in my work; to the best of my knowledge, the words are not used in any of the books I've written. The survival of the fittest is a process that doesn't have any moral overtones -- it is something that occurs, and you don't choose for it to occur or not to occur.

Katherine from Maryland: Hi, Mr. Quinn. Did you have model for the character of Julie? I was a big fan of ISHMAEL.

Daniel Quinn: I'm delighted to hear that. As I've indicated, I'm a big fan of Julie's. Every author creates a character that he or she understands. There are many 12-year-old girls who I could not have used as the character because I don't understand them, but Julie is my creation -- she is someone I understand and respond to with affection.

Matt W. from Hartford, CT: Did you ever find it difficult to write in the voice of a young female as an older male?

Daniel Quinn: Yes, I understand your question because Julie was someone I understood. I didn't have problems writing about Julie at age 12; I might have problems writing about her at 20. I felt confident writing about her -- you might say that she is a distillation of my own feminine side.

John Austin from Worcester, MA: With the completion of MY ISHMAEL, I'm wondering what is next for Daniel Quinn. Can we expect more books? And what about the Future Positive Foundation? How is that coming along, and when might it be operational?

Daniel Quinn: The book I'm working on next is also called FUTURE POSITIVE; its subtitle is HOW ORDINARY PEOPLE ARE GOING TO SAVE THE WORLD. This, in a very real way, is the book that people have been asking me to write ever since they started reading ISHMAEL. It's directed very much more to how we're going to do it than any of the other books. As to the organization, it's subtitle is FOUNDATION FOR A NEW WORLDVIEW. This is coming along very well, and we're hoping to be operational the first of the year. People who want more information about this should check our Web site at

Matt Siegel from Tucson, AZ: How do we overcome the oppressive and interfering nature of the taker culture, as seen in its response to cults and gangs, for attempting to create tribes with separate values than those of the takers, such as the ones you talked about in MY ISHMAEL i.e. The Crow in Seattle.

Daniel Quinn: I don't have a definitive answer to that question at this point. We need to do some experimenting, and to bring in some people who are adept at organizational thinking, which, in truth, is not really my personal strong suit.

Amy Wat from Pennsylvania: What type of information infrastructure can be set up to help other revolutionaries find out what others are doing so as to be able to build those "innovations," as in the Industrial Revolution? Isn't the media the worst place to transmit information of this kind?

Daniel Quinn: I don't know why you say the media is the worst place to transmit this type of information. It seems to me that any dissemination of new ideas by any means is what we're hoping for. The information is not painted or infected by the media that transmit it.

Mark S. Meritt from New York, NY: I understand that your next book will be on "how ordinary people will save the world." In the past, you've said that you didn't know any better than anyone else how to accomplish this. I'm thrilled that you're taking this on, and I wonder: How did you arrive at a point where you felt you could take on this endeavor?

Daniel Quinn: Glad to hear from you, Matt. What I've said consistently is that there isn't any formula that everyone can follow; rather, it is up to each individual to find and use his or her own resources, which I am unable to know. I haven't said that I don't know how we're going to save the world; what I said in THE STORY OF B is, if the world is saved, it will not be saved by old minds with new programs -- it will be saved by new minds with no programs at all. What I'm working on in this book is an approach to how we end up with those new minds.

Stuart Larson from Mankato, MN: Do you see space exploration as a danger to the leaver-type vision we are working for? Could the ability to escape our crowded planet prove to be a benefit for the Taker Thunderbolt?

Daniel Quinn: I see that as being no danger to anyone, really. People talk about exporting our excess population to other planets as a means of avoiding catastrophe on this planet, but if you do the mathematics and our population continues to double at its present rate, then it would take us about 600 years to absolutely fill every planet in the entire universe. Sounds improbable, but if you do the math you will discover it is true. This particular math is done in MY ISHMAEL.

A. Taylor Young from San Diego, CA: I have read all four books and did not realize how powerful Mother Culture was at singing her song. Many to whom I have shared your work do not see the vital importance of what you are saying. Ma Culture has them sound asleep. What other wake-up calls can we use?

Daniel Quinn: I find that people discover their own wake-up calls in their own time. People write to me all the time to say, "I picked up your book four years ago and read a few pages, and put it away as of no interest, and just recently I picked it up again and found that I couldn't put it down and found that reading it overturned everything I've ever believed." My own experience is that people who aren't ready to listen can't be reached by persuasion and that your time is better spent talking to people who are ready to answer.

Keri from Greeley, CO: Mr. Quinn, Your writing has changed my life. Thank you. If I may ask a personal question, do you ever plan on having a child, and if yes, how would you educate him/her?

Daniel Quinn: I am not planning to have a child, but then, I'm 62 years old. I had children when I was a young man and educated them conventionally, because at that time I had not developed the ideas that you see in my books.

Kristin Jacobson from Washington, Illinois: Are there any plans to have a gathering of people interested in the teachings of B?

Daniel Quinn: One of the reasons for the new organization is that many people have asked to have an opportunity to study with me in the manner of students of B. We will be opening an educational center in Houston where I will be available five or six nights a week to those who want to gather for that purpose.

Bob Guehl from Salem, OH: Are you a stockholder in ADM Archer Daniels Midland, and do you really think they believe they can feed 95 million more people each year? How do we get through to them?

Daniel Quinn: I'm not a stockholder in ADM. These are, of course, the people that I'm opposing in my writings who blindly believe that we can go on producing more food without seeing the population grow catastrophically. ADM is Mother Culture's answer to our problems, and this is the answer that I am quarreling with in my books.

Matt from Worcester, MA: Will the foundation have an actual center or be more of just an information exchange via...what?

Daniel Quinn: It will be a physical center and people can come there -- we will have a library and a great deal of material there for them, eventually courses taught by professors in the neighborhood.

Mike Day from Seattle: What do you like best about book tours?

Daniel Quinn: Interacting with audiences that show up for signings.

Amy Wat from Pennsylvania: My comment about the media came from your opposition to communities being "sanctioned" by taker culture, and isn't the media a type of sanctioning or acceptance?

Daniel Quinn: The media speaks with the voice of Mother Culture, but it is capable of speaking with other voices as well: For example, my own books are an output of media ,and they call into question the teachings of Mother Culture. If books can do it, why not movies or newspapers?

Bob from Stratford, ON: Mr. Quinn, you seem to be receiving quite a great deal of response from your average, working citizen. What response, if any, have you received from a political standpoint, or from those in such industries as petrochemical and other resource-extracting areas?

Daniel Quinn: I've heard from a few politicians, but most of them on a local or state level. Mikhail Gorbachev's organization Global Green has read ISHMAEL widely, and my books have been read in systems-thinking circles, in which travel many consultants to international corporations.

Phil from Maryland: Your writings have taken apart our cultural mythology. Do you see your efforts as an attempt to provide a new cultural mythology to change the world? I have been very impressed with your writing. It has taken many pieces of the puzzle and made them into a coherent picture. I have tried to find flaws in your argument but am unable to do so. I have studied prehistoric peoples for my work as a jeweler, of all things, and find your arguments consistent with all my research. Your writings have significantly changed my life.

Daniel Quinn: Yes, it's my contention that it is our worldview that is driving us to the brink of catastrophe, and it has been my effort to shake that worldview and to replace it with a worldview that is both more rational and sustainable.

Kelly Smith from Asheboro, NC: Mr. Quinn, I enjoyed your lecture at the NAEE Conference in Vancouver, BC. I am currently reading the nonfiction title DOMINION by Niles Eldredge, which is similar, in principle, to many of the ideas you develop in your books. Eldredge feels that agriculture has allowed humankind to "live outside the local ecosystem," thus allowing the increases in world population. With so few people actually having access to land, do you have any suggestions on how we might revise agricultural systems to allow us to return to the local ecosystem?

Daniel Quinn: I myself have no specific suggestions on that point. It's my role to change people's minds on this issue. Mother Culture teaches that our problem is to grow more food because we have more people; my teaching is that if we grow more food, then we will surely have more people.

Valerie from Visalia, CA: Would you comment on the production of the play "Ishmael," based on your book? I enjoyed the play and the message. What was your reaction to the finished product?

Daniel Quinn: I'm afraid I didn't see it. I would have liked to have been there, but I didn't see it and so can't comment on it.

Mike Day from Seattle: somewhat related to Terri Galante's question In MY ISHMAEL, you bring up "playing Erratic Retaliator," and it seems that it requires and accepts that people kill each other from time to time, and that this is healthy in a tribal context. Do you anticipate Erratic Retaliator being played within the New Tribal Revolution? Are there ways tribal systems can thrive without killing members of the same species? Do you think it's possible that we will ever get to a point where we stop killing members of our own species?

Daniel Quinn: Killing is not the point of the strategy; the Retaliator Strategy fosters peace by providing less than lethal means of resolving conflicts. Elephant seals in a rut engage in violent activity which assures the continuance of their species, and it will not end -- by that I mean that they are not going to put aside their differences and live like angels. The idea that humans can live like angels is as impossible as the idea that people can live without encountering conflicts.

Bob from Stratford, ON: Hello, Mr. Quinn. I was wondering if you could comment on the organization Future Positive, and what your hopes and intentions might be.

Daniel Quinn: The subtitle says it all: "Foundation for a New Worldview." This is what my writing is all about -- promulgating a new salutary worldview -- and this is the purpose of my organization.

Chuck Speake from San Diego, CA: I have noticed that Bantam seems to be working hard to keep your light under a bushel so to speak. Even the host of this event has spared every effort to keep your new book a secret. With the new unchecked power of the major bookselling chains to dictate what is published and what is not, how do we get beyond the gatekeepers at the bookstores? I would have thought Bantam would have sent paper-bound review copies to each bookstore employee in America. When I was a bookstore owner in the 1960s this was used for really important books like yours. Thanks for the wonderful gift you have given us all with your five books.

Daniel Quinn: I don't feel that either Bantam or any booksellers are trying to hide my light under a bushel. The truth is that publishers and booksellers don't exercise a kind of censorship over their work in general. One day, for example, they will publish and promote and sell a work of excellent science like A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME, and the next day they will publish and promote and sell a book about alien abductions.

Jennifer from North Carolina: Mr. Quinn, I have read all of your books, and they have had a profound impact on my life. In MY ISHMAEL you used the term "unschooling." I was curious if you are familiar with the books of Grace Llewellyn? She has written a few books about "unschooling" a very nontraditional version of homeschooling -- essentially let the kids explore whatever they are interested in. You both seem to have the same view of education. She is another writer who has changed my view of our society, and I was wondering if you had heard of her.

Daniel Quinn: I have not heard of her book. I've heard of the term "unschooling," of course. I was unfamiliar with Grace Llewellyn's work.

Moderator: We appreciate your time spent attending to all of our queries. Best of luck on future projects, which we hope you'll discuss with us here again. Goodnight!

Daniel Quinn: Goodnight! I'll be glad to come back anytime! The new Web site will be opening by the end of December, and it will include everything in the current site, plus MY ISHMAEL information and more -- chat rooms, interactive bulletin boards, and more!

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Customer Reviews

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 30 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2014

    Just...really good. That's all, it's really good. 

    Just...really good. That's all, it's really good. 

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 21, 2014

    Thought provoking

    A great read

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 17, 2012

    School Project

    I had to read this book for english and it was by far the most confusing book ever. But thats just my opinion. It took me a while to fully understand it, but toward the end it all came together and made a little more since. I havent read the first book and i dont know if reading that will make the second book a little easier to understand but you just have to read carefully.
    Also if you think about it, ishmael is daniel quinn and julie plays us in a way. Her questions are similar to questions we would ask.
    Daniel quinn also uses weird tribe names like the awks bawks and cawks (a,b,c) its very creative though.
    Anf a very good view changing read.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 31, 2009

    you will want to lead a revolution (yes thats a good thing)

    this book without a doubt will change your view of everything. you will see the entire form of society in a new light. nothing will ever compare to this reading, NOTHING! you will separate your books into pre-Ishmael and post-Ishmael. this book is just that incredible.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2007


    So very few books have this much impact. A must read for anyone concerned with the state of the world.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 3, 2003


    This book was one of the most inspiring and intelligent books that I have ever read. The ideas presented display an acurate picture of our world and draw a horrific yet accurate picture of our society. This is a wonderful book to read. I was deeply moved and affected by this book.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2002

    Merging fiction and reality

    This book essentially eliminates the line between fiction and reality. If you can bend your mind to see the world or bend the world in your mind, then this book will please you. It's such a provocative look at the world and how things work/could work; that you won't stop reading till the last page.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 13, 2001


    Hardly had I finished reading Ishmael that I badly craved the sequel - which turned out to be greater and more accomplished. Naturally, I can't say I would have reached the same level of enthrallment had I not read Ishmael. This time, through the mind of an adolescent, the world IS fathomable and redeemable. I'm recommending the book to everyone I know, as I've never done before!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2001

    Ishmael speaks to a new generation!

    This book brings Daniel's message into a new light. Taken from a young girls view it gives us hope for the future, as well as answering those questions that have been plagueing human kind for a long time. Why do I feel so disconnected, unhappy and bored with life? Why do I yearn to just walk away from it all? Read this book!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 22, 2001

    Thought-provoking and compassionate

    In this new book, Quinn explores the ideas in ISHMAEL through a child's eyes, helping to explain much of the behavior we see in kids today without demonizing it. Compassionate and original, it presents important ideas in a way I havn't seen done before. Read it---then pass it on.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 14, 2000

    enlightening and helpful

    My Ishmael is a logical, unique, (and correct!?!) understanding of the social ills that plague the western world. A great read, mostly because it doesn't patronize the reader with easy answers, but instead reveals the problem so the reader can hopefully be inspired to apply themselves to this paradigm. Worthy reading for visionaries!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 31, 2000

    Reality Check!

    A wonderful addition to a mind boggling series. Can be read on its own but why would you want to? You begin to see everything differently after this enlightening tale.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 12, 2000

    A Different Perspective

    If you've read <i>Ishmael</i>, then I would strongly recommend that you read <i>My Ishmael</i> as well. It takes everything discussed in the first book, and then some, and looks at it from a different perspective--something that can be incredibly useful in whatever we do. The ending of the novel is actually somewhat anti-climactic, but at the same time, as usual, Quinn leaves the reader with a lot to ponder over. In short: a remarkable book worthy of your time.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 24, 2009

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    Posted April 3, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2012

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 30 Customer Reviews

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