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Invisible Success, Civilizations that Die or Quit and Memes We Live By; Transcript of an Interview with Daniel Quinn

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Daniel Quinn   Yes, some contact; a bit on to odd contact.  He was not comfortable with me.  I think it was partly because first, Ted set out on this thing, he wanted to do this thing, because he wanted to make a movie.  He was looking for a novel he could use as the basis for a movie.  And the first thing his advisers told him:  "You can't write a movie out of this book" - which is what the judges had given him.  So he had spent two million dollars basically getting something that he couldn't use.  Of course, he wouldn't say that to me at the time we met; and it's funny that the person that I was most in contact with, who was the head of Turner Publishing, said "We're sort of playing down the gorilla thing, you know - not talking about the gorilla." 

And I said "Well, OK..." 

 

And so when I met Ted, the first thing he said to me was, "Why a Gorilla?"  (laughs)  And I burst out laughing!  And I'm sure he thought I was laughing at him, whereas I was laughing at this other person, who had said "We are trying to keep this quiet!"  And of course, "Why a gorilla?" has been a question that's been asked of me almost everywhere ever.  Everywhere I've ever been, someone has asked that question.

 

Rob Kall:   Why a gorilla?

 

Daniel Quinn   Why a gorilla?  Because what was needed was a voice from the living community, but not a human voice, and the gorilla was the first thing that came to mind.  It couldn't have been a pelican, or a shark, or a deer.  It had to be a figure that would be believable, and carry weight;.and of course, a gorilla carries a lot of weight.

 

Rob Kall:   What was your goal in writing this book?  What was the message, or the feeling, or the idea that you wanted your reader to come away with?

 

Daniel Quinn   I would say from my late twenties, I have been puzzled by things I've seen that didn't make sense to me in the world around us, the world we've created; and I went looking for answers.  I was not thinking of writing a book or anything like that.  I wanted answers for myself.  I was puzzled by the fact that humans have been around for three or four million years, but no one talks about anything but the last ten thousand years; and the first three or four million years they just ignore, they are of no importance.  I found this difficult to believe, and I went back, and I studied, and I read everything I could get my hands on - about our ancient ancestors, and their modern day descendants, aboriginal peoples. 

 

So I've read a lot of archeology, a lot of anthropology, and I gradually saw something about how we came to be this way, how things came to be this way-- the way that they are right now in the world.  And I thought this was something I needed to share, but I didn't know how to go about it.  And that's when I set out, after I finally quit educational publishing, and I was out on my own. I started then to write this book, some book.  I thought it would be easy, but of course it wasn't easy.  The first edition, the first version, was easy.  The second version was easy, the third, and fourth, and fifth, and sixth, and so on.  But each one was a disappointment and a struggle.

 

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