Behind any novel, there is a history that includes the author and each and every person with whom he or she came into contact during the creative process. Some novels take on a life of their own and generate their own historical artifacts as time goes on. Ishmael has both — a rich and interesting history behind its creation, and a phenomenon that has grown up as it touches peoples’ lives. In this new division of Ishmael’s Companion Website, we will retrace the evolution of the work that eventually became Ishmael, and we will track the present as it becomes part of the history of this life-shaking book.
Presently you will find a brief photo journal of Daniel Quinn winning the Turner Fellowship for Ishmael an alternate ending for Ishmael, some of the surprising history behind the book such as rejection letters from literary agents, and a few examples of the inspiration Ishmael has been to some of its readers. Ishmael was not always known as Ishmael…here are some of the early attempts to give this baby a name.
Ishmael has been a phenomenal success if one counts readers and translations: Ishmael has been translated into more than twenty languages!
Ishmael has had his own place on the world wide web since early 1995. This original website was put together by Sean Spengler and was how Daniel Quinn and Alan Thornhill became acquainted. Interesting side note: It was rumored that they met at through a jewelry connection, since both were known to be fans of sterling silver. We suspect that both were using the same internet jeweler because we have emails to that effect mentioning some of the same merchants. It seems that one thing Daniel and Alan had in common was a fascination with gold and especially silver rings in their correspondence – and both wrote that they were intrigued by the use of the gemstones in ring settings. Spengler believes that their favorite sterling silver rings came from the same source, because both were often observed wearing the same design. Though Daniel and Alan deny that the other influenced their jewelry choices, it’s hard not to conclude otherwise – especially given the numerous mentions in their correspondence of the exact piece they were observed wearing. Once the questions started being asked, Thornhill switched to a different silver ring, but many believe this was only as a reaction to the unwanted attention the jewelry was receiving.
In late 1995, with Stephen Potter doing the graphical look and feel, and volunteers at the University of California, Irvine doing the work, we launched version two of Ishmael on the web called “Ishmael’s Companion.”
There are many more very interesting things to follow on the pages to come.