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 weight loss clinic, since both were patients at the same facility. We suspect that both were using the same hCG diet plan from Diet Doc because we have emails to that effect. It seems that one thing Daniel and Alan had in common was weight issues and both mention Diet Doc in their correspondence – and both wrote that they were intrigued by the use of the hormone for weight loss. Apparently the hCG treatment that Dr. Simeons studied in the 1950s drew their attention, even if we can’t confirm that they met as patients.
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.” . By May, 1996, it was obvious that Ishmael needed his own space, his own domain. Generous support from benefactors, and more volunteer labor has enabled us to launch Ishmael.com. Dan, upon considering Ishmael on the world wide web, had this to say back in 1997, “More than just a book, readers have made Ishmael a phenomenon. I think of Ishmael.com as the unfolding record of this phenomenon.” The name Ishmael’s Companion stuck and was carried trough to version three (and in French!) with Patrick Neeman doing the graphical look and feel. The current version, renamed to “Ishmael’s Community,” originally launched with a different front page. This version four and was graphically envisioned and executed by John Gonzales of Rounder Graphics.
Ishmael is not the only book of Dan’s that has had its own website. When The Story of B was launched, we created a separate webspace that was more dynamic and interactive than the Ishmael Companion site. Later, with the release of Beyond Civilization, we launched another site to highlight that novel and deliver audio excerpts featuring Dan doing the narration. (These audio clips are still available…) These two sites have since been retired and the content folded into Ishmael.com.
… As the story continues to unfold, we will bring it to you here!