The following is a quick piece submitted for my journalistic writer’s craft class discussing someone I would love to interview.
If I were to interview anyone in the world, I would select American author Daniel Quinn. He is most recognized for his publication Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit.
Ishmael is a philosophical fiction work that discusses the deterioration of the earth, mass species extinction and the inability for the earth to provide resources to humans at the rate they are using them. These ideas are presented through interactions between an unnamed narrator and a gorilla named Ishmael.
Quinn spent 20 years in educational and consumer publishing before delving into freelance writing in 1975.
After the publication of Ishmael, Quinn won the Turner Tomorrow Fellowship award, which recognizes authors who investigate “creative and positive solutions to global problems.”
He has involved himself in organizations that examine global issues. He instituted the Stateville Penitentiary Writers’ Workshop, served on the board of listeners at the World Uranium Hearing, has spoken at post-secondary institutions and high schools in America and has spoken at conferences, including the Minnesota Social Investment Forum, St. Martin’s College World Population Forum, Systems Thinking in Action and the North American Association for Environmental Education.
I selected Quinn for this interview because I’m fascinated by his ideas. A high school English teacher lent me his copy of Ishmael after I submitted an assignment that touched on similar environmental issues Quinn discusses.
Although the plot itself is structured simply, the ideas contained in them are global. After reading this novel, I became more critically aware of my personal impact on the environment and the type of destructive behaviour our culture elicits.
Within the interview, I would focus initially on the contents of Ishmael. I would ask about Quinn’s inspiration for the novels and their connection to modern civilization. I would also ask him to expand on his philosophy of perceiving humanity as residents rather than rulers of the earth.
I would also ask for clarification on some cultural terminology he uses in Ishmael, including “takers and leavers,” “Mother Culture,” “the Great Forgetting,” “New Tribal Revolution,” and “totalitarian agriculture.” I would be interested in learning more about his personal philosophy and his proposed solutions to the issues in his writing.
One thing that would separate my interview from others would be an inquiry into the relevance of his topics today, almost 30 years after Ishmael was published. From here, I would ask for a more detailed explanation of his proposed solutions to cultural and environmental issues that could be implemented today. Lastly, I would ask him to compare the culture he presents in Ishmael to North American culture today.