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The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by…

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating (edition 2010)

by Elisabeth Tova Bailey

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6826714,002 (4.12)139
Title:The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating
Authors:Elisabeth Tova Bailey
Info:Algonquin Books (2010), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 208 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Kindle, Memoir, Snails

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The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey


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We used to have a pair of African dwarf frogs on the counter in the kitchen. I spent countless hours watching them drift up and down in their aquatic home. I worried when the heavier frog seemed to be getting all of the food I put in the tank. (I had reason to worry, as it turned out, since Mossy ended up starving to death.) Even down to one frog, I was mesmerized by the tiny creature. And I was truly sad when Senor Flipper followed his fellow frog to the great aquarium in the sky. I loved watching the frogs just go about their daily business. So perhaps it isn't unusual that I found Elisabeth Tova Bailey's book about the wild snail she watched from her bedside as she was ill and bedridden to be a beautiful, completely engrossing, and meditative read.

After a trip abroad, Bailey contracted a terrible illness that almost killed her. In fact, it kept her bedridden for more than a decade. In that time, she had to learn to live the very constrained life she was capable of, even as she was robbed of mobility, strength, and everything she understood to be who she was. When a friend, knowing how much she missed the outdoors, brings a tiny wild snail and a small violet plant into Bailey's room, she can't have predicted the outcome. Bailey is fascinated by the snail, watching the small mollusc as it explores its new home, learning about the tiny creature in scientific terms, and uncovering other authors and poets who have, in their turn, been intrigued by and written about snails.

The book is a short one, easily read but it is a true gem for all its brevity, combining the inner life of a thoughtful and careful writer with the simple but elegant outer life of a snail. It is gorgeous, introspective, and quiet. It's filled with fascinating information and lovely passages. It is sustaining in the way that the best writing is and I hope that people who might not think to look at the beauty of a snail's life will in fact find their way to this book. ( )
  whitreidtan | Oct 12, 2016 |
The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating - Elisabeth Tova Bailey
4.5 stars

My feelings about snails are situational. In my garden they are pests. In a classroom, they are pets; interesting, low maintenance creatures that are easily observed and studied. Also, at the end of the day, with the room empty of children, snails are quiet, very quiet, and serenely calming to a teacher’s jangled nerves. That is why I could easily understand how a snail could become a fascinating companion to a bedridden invalid.

Like Laura Hillenbrand, Elisabeth Bailey is an author afflicted with a form of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. When she was most debilitated by her disease, a friend brought her a wild violet plant and one small woodland snail. The snail becomes the focus of her attention, a lifeline when she is most despairing. This book combines her intense observations of one snail with her reflections on her own illness. She does her homework. Her snail is not Seabiscuit, but she talks to the experts and reads up on the natural history of snails through the centuries. She is not alone in her affection for snails. Her chapters are full of excerpts of poetry and prose devoted to the lowly snail.

I read this book while water dropping aircraft overflew my house and a 38,000 acre fire was raging within view of my backyard. The book not only held my attention, it reduced my anxiety and probably lowered my blood pressure. It was pleasant, soothing, and interesting. Just like a snail. ( )
  msjudy | Jul 31, 2016 |
Lovely read. The author has an unknown viral illness that renders her suddenly fatigued and bedridden. A friend brings her a woodland violet, dug up in her yard, complete with a snail. Unable to do anything for herself, she watches the snail, eventually having it moved into a terrarium, where she notes the changes in it's behavior with the seasons. Gorgeous pen & ink drawings, with poetry beginning each chapter. ( )
  nancynova | Jul 13, 2016 |
Meditative and insightful, much like Anne Lindbergh's Gift from the Sea . ( )
  wandaly | Jun 30, 2016 |
“Illness isolates; the isolated become invisible; the invisible become forgotten. But the snail….the snail kept my spirit from evaporating.”

Summary from book description: While an illness keeps her bedridden, Bailey watches a wild snail that has taken up residence on her nightstand. As a result, she discovers the solace and sense of wonder that this mysterious creature brings and comes to a greater under standing of her own confined place in the world.

Utterly fascinating little gem of a book - about how ones inner world expands while focusing in and paying close attention to the minutest details - here the life of a snail - Elisabeth Tova Bailey builds a terrarium and start to read all about snails.

While her severe illness lasts twenty years, the book covers only one year with a snail by her side. But there’s healing found in her curious observations of “the sound of wild snail eating”. Inspiring nature writing combined with life wisdom and philosophical musings.

Whereas the energy of my human visitors wore me out, the snail inspired me. Its curiosity and grace pulled me further into its peaceful and solitary world. Watching it go about its life in the small ecosystem of the terrarium put me at ease. ( )
4 vote ctpress | May 13, 2016 |
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A small pet is often an excellent companion.
-- Florence Nightingale, Notes on Nursing, 1912
The natural world is the refuge of the spirit... richer even than human imagination.
--Edward O. Wilson, Biophilia, 1984
To biophilia
First words
In early spring, a friend went for a walk in the woods, and glancing down at the path, saw a snail. Picking it up, she held it gingerly in the palm of her hand and carried it back toward the studio where I was convalescing.
...my grandfather settled into life as a country doctor...when he answered a patient's call, even in the middle of the night, his very first words were always, "I am so sorry that you are not feeling well." How rare is it to hear a doctor express such empathy.
It seemed far more sensible to belong to a species that had evolved natural tooth replacement than to belong to one that had developed the dental profession.
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Book description
While an illness keeps her bedridden, Elisabeth Bailey watches a wild snail that has taken up residence in a terrarium alongside her bed. She enters the rhythm of life of this mysterious creature, and comes to a greater understanding of her own confined place in the world. In a work that beautifully demonstrates the rewards of closely observing nature, she shares the inspiring and intimate story of her close encounter with Neohelix albolabris - acommon woodland snail. Intrigued by the snail's world - from its strange anatomy to its mysterious courtship activities - she becomes a fascinated and amused observer of the snail's curious life. The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating is an affirmation of the healing power of nature, revealing how much of the world we miss in our busy daily lives, and how truly magical it is. A remarkable journey of survival and resilience, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating shows how a small part of the natural world can illuminate our own human existence and deepen our appreciation of what it means to be fully alive.
Haiku summary
Most unlikely friend,
Humble snail, shows me the way.
Glide here. Stick there. Wait.

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In a work that beautifully demonstrates the rewards of closely observing nature, Elisabeth Bailey shares an inspiring and intimate story of her uncommon encounter with a "Neohelix albolabris" --a common woodland snail.

(summary from another edition)

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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