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The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating (edition 2010)

by Elisabeth Tova Bailey

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4804121,220 (4.11)121
Member:-Cee-
Title:The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating
Authors:Elisabeth Tova Bailey
Info:Algonquin Books (2010), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 208 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****1/2
Tags:Kindle, Memoir, Snails

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The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey

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Showing 1-5 of 40 (next | show all)
quiet sweet interesting. ( )
  njcur | Feb 13, 2014 |
I loved this beautiful quiet book. During an extended period of being bed-ridden Elisabeth befriends and observes a snail and shares fascinating insights about its tiny slow world. This book was recommended to me by one of our lovely regular patrons at my library. He said, “Read this book, it will change your life. You will never step on a snail ever again!” He didn’t realise how much this book would speak to me in its profound observations on the meaning of life and humanity through the lens of observing this mysterious life form, at once alien and familiar. As Charles Darwin observed, “We must, however, acknowledge, as it seems to me, that man with all his noble qualities…still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin.” ( )
  Sophiejf | May 22, 2013 |
I loved this short little book! Some people would assume that a book about a snail would basically be a book about nothing. I found this a beautiful and engaging tale that demonstrates the wonder of our natural world.

When Elizabeth Bailey contracts a life-threatening illness that leaves her bedridden, a friend brings her a land snail in a potted violet to keep her company. Over the course of many months, Bailey observes the minutia of the snail's life. It is her one connection to the outside, living world beyond her caregivers.

I tend to like books about nature and there is a lot to enjoy about this book. The information about land snails is given in an engaging way, and the author does not dwell on her illness. This book is all about the snail! Even if you think you will not like a book about a slimy garden pest, you should give this one a try. ( )
2 vote Cobscook | May 19, 2013 |
Every once in awhile, a book comes along that is so profound in every aspect, that shouting about it seems obscene. Such a tome is THE SOUND of a WILD SNAIL EATING. It has been sitting on my NOOK for almost a year, and when a fellow 75er wrote glowingly about it last week, I went to take another look.

I figured I'd read a few pages to see if it was worth moving it up in the TBR queue.  I started reading it in bed the other night (I hardly ever read in bed), and turned out the light 2 hours later, having finished one of the most beautiful stories I'd read in a long time.

The story is not complicated, but since it deals with life and all it's ups and downs, the simplicity of the story is deceiving.  The author, a vibrant outdoorsy young woman is stricken with a disastrous microbacterial disease while visiting Europe.  She manages to return home just before becoming almost completely parazlyzed, and spends the next several years in varying degrees of immobilized existence.  She can't stand for longer than a few seconds, she has periods where she can't move a muscle, not because she's in pain, but because her neurological system is totally out of whack.  She is completely dependent on others for her daily needs.

While she is housebound in a very sterile white room, where she cannot even see out a window, a friend brings her a potted wood violet, dug from her own yard, and with it, a common land snail to live in this tiny ecosystem on the table near her bed.

Day after day, as she watches the snail slowly make its way through life, at about the same pace she seems to be living, she becomes fascinated with everything about the snail.  She sends for books about snails and immerses herself in how it moves, how it eats, when it sleeps, how it procreates (snails are hermaphrodites).  There's a lot of science packed into the 125 pages, but she manages to present it in a layman's prose that makes it not only understandable, but elegant.  In addition, Bailey starts each short chapter with a quote about time and/or snails. For example, "The velocity of the ill however, is like that of the snail."....Emily Dickson. After all, watching and listening to snails is an exercise of time.  Bailey says....

Then absorbed in snail watching, I'd find that time had flown by unnoticed....The mountain of things I felt I needed to do reached the moon, yet there was little I could do about anything, and time continued to drag me along its path.  We are all hostages of time.  We each have the same number of minutes and hours to live within a day, yet to me it didn't feel equally doled out.  My illness brought me such an abundance of time, that time was nearly all I had...it was perplexing how in losing health I had gained something so coveted but to so little purpose. p. 31.
Watching the snail gives her courage.  Learning about the snail's biology gives her insight into her own humanity.  The story gives us all a chance to step back, and like the snail, smell the world around us, take things one small slimey step at a time, and offer thanks for the wonders of what we are given.

A solid sweet beautiful book.  It will be one to return to periodically, a lovely gift for a shut in (perhaps with a snail garden attached!) or an able bodied person who would relish an excuse to stop the world for just a short time.  I'm so glad I received that nudge to go dig it from the Nook shelves.  It certainly makes me wonder what other gems are buried in those piles, both physical and electronic. ( )
8 vote tututhefirst | May 19, 2013 |
Some beautiful prose. I love her lingering attention to the small. Unfortunately, the book got quite slow--not enough inner transformation or at least reflection for my tastes. ( )
  ElizabethAndrew | May 13, 2013 |
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Epigraph
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
Dedication
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.
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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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