Dubbed "an adventure of the mind and spirit", The Story of B is the second installment in Daniel Quinn's Ishmael trilogy. The Story of B follows Father Jared Osborne as he is sent to Europe by the Vatican to investigate the actions of one Charles Atterly, or as he is better known, B. B is an individual who travels around Europe, spreading his message to the masses, his message though, has led the Vatican to believe him to be the Antichrist, for his message contradicts the message of the Roman Catholic Church, or any other organized religion for that matter. So, Jared must investigate B, and decide for himself what he truly believes.
Brief summary of ideas:
In this novel, Quinn shifts his focus slightly from the idea of how we are destroying the planet, and thus need to change the way that we live, and relate to the environment, that was found in Ishmael, to looking at something that can be seen in everyday life, religion. Quinn examines what people believe, and why they believe it. The simple and short answer to those areas of inquiry is: because they are told what to believe, and have forgotten (in an evolutionary sense) how to do things any differently than how they are told.
B explains this idea of "The Great Forgetting" (as the book refers to it) as the time in the history of man when humans forgot that we were not always farmers; for, in fact, humans were first hunter-gatherers. Quinn attributes this forgetting to the fact that man took to an agricultural lifestyle before he created a written record of his previous hunting-gathering lifestyle. Here is a quote from the book that talks about the forgetting:
"We can hardly be surprised that the forgetting took place. On the contrary, it's hard to imagine how it could have been avoided. It would have been necessary to hold on to the memory of our hunting-gathering past for five thousand years before anyone would have been capable of making a written record of it."
Another interesting idea that The Story of B discusses is that of animism. In the book, B describes animism as the first, and only universal religion, one that resonated with all life on the planet. So, this meant that the first religion on Earth did not concern only humans, but all creatures, an idea, which contradicts nearly every modern religion. For example, B's message, which is based on animism, is concerned with saving the whole world. Christianity, however, is only based on saving humans (Jesus Christ came only to save human lives). Here is a quote that sums up animism, and explains why it is a comprehensive and universal religion:
"Animism looks for truth in the universe, not in books, revelations, and authorities. Science is the same. Though animism and science read the universe in different ways, both have complete confidence in its truthfulness."
After reading Ishmael, I was blown away by what Quinn had to say about everyday life, and expected the same level of revelation in The Story of B. I am happy to say that I was not disappointed. The Story of B had everything one could want from a novel: a good story, characters you could relate to, and understand, and more than anything, thought provoking concepts. Like all other Daniel Quinn novels, I highly recommend The Story of B to anyone who wants to look at life from a different point of view. Cautionary note: you should probably read Ishmael before this book, otherwise you might find yourself a little confused at times.
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