Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Monkey Book

Hubs and I are readers. (Well... that's not completely honest. Hubs is a reader. I was a reader. I used to finish several books a week-- and in the past year or so I've really struggled to finish much of anything. )


We're readers. We love to read, love to collect books, love to talk about what we've read-- it's been a major part of our relationship since we first began dating. When we wed, books we loved were the centerpieces at our reception tables. Books played heavily in our courtship-- they were the language we used to communicate to one another about who we were-- where we were coming from.

He had me read books, I don't remember which ones, and then we'd talk about why he loved those books and what spoke to him from them.

I would do the same. I don't remember most of the books I had Hubs read.

But I remember I asked him to read Ishmael by Daniel Quinn.

We'd only been dating about three months or so when I passed it across the table at lunch one day.

"I really loved this book," I told him. "I hope you like it, too."

If you haven't read Ishmael, it is a book about a man who answers an ad placed by a mysterious "teacher." That teacher turns out to be a gorilla named Ishmael who can communicate telepathically with our narrator.

(Yes, it is really important to suspend one's disbelief to appreciate this book. Do you really think there are folks on an island somewhere living the plot of Lost? O.K. then!)

Once Ishmael and the Narrator begin their curious relationship, a fascinating dialogue ensues about the fall of man, the incongruity with which modern society conducts itself, and how humanity can begin to redeem itself.

This book really spoke to me on so many levels. It challenged me to be a better person-- a "Giver" instead of the "Takers" Ishmael describes. It made me think about our society, our culture, our history, and our responsibilities as a civilization.

I couldn't wait to discuss it with him.

And he abhored it.

Hated it.

He called it "The Monkey Book."

He just could not get past the talking gorilla thing.

It wasn't that he disagreed with the ideas being posited. Or that he felt the arguments were poorly thought out. Or even that he thought it was poorly written.

It was the talking gorilla.

I took it extremely personally; I was heartbroken. I felt I had put myself out there, in the form of this text, to show Hubs what I thought about our world, and our place in it. And he had rejected it (me) because he found the delivery (me) to be cumbersome. Uncomfortable. Unbelievable.

Some years have passed, obviously, and we worked through it. Now, we giggle about the "Monkey Book."

I still love the book. And he will probably never love the book. But's that's okay, because even though it's not a book we share a love for, we share a history around it.

And that's one way a dialogue is built around books.


Heather said...

That's great that you can discuss books like that. You'll get back to reading soon. That first year after a baby is born is hard!

Jules said...

I read Ishmael in a day. I LOVED that book :)