|Look inside to sample Bailey's |
A snail or The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating? Or both.
Think Annie Dillard meets Emily Dickinson: The Housebound Pilgrim at the Terrarium.
This brief memoir of Elisabeth Tova Bailey's two year sojourn with a snail and its progeny offers musings on debilitating illness, natural history, interspecies relationships, evolution, time, and beauty too.
Bailey, as far as can be gleaned from the book itself and her website, has been living mainly horizontally for many years due to a rare illness brought on by a rogue pathogen. One day, a friend brings some violets and a woodland snail to her bedside and so fatigued is Bailey that she finds observing the snail to be a perfectly paced diversion. The bulk of the book offers her observations of her snail's quotidian adventures interwoven with research on the history and science of mollusks that, years later, Bailey accomplished when her health improved a tad.
Certainly, this would be a lovely book to read on a summer afternoon or a winter snowbound day. Bailey's fluid style and unusually close observations offer a quietly engaging read for anyone with a modicum of curiosity about the natural world and about what it might feel like to be in Bailey's situation. And anyone who loves words will smile at reminders of 'gastropod', 'malacologist', 'prostostomes', 'deuterostomes', and 'estivation'. By no means daunting, these flashbacks to high school bio enliven the reader's experience here.
Finally, it's profoundly heartening to know that this young woman, felled early in her life by illness, did accomplish this lasting record of her world and her ways of seeing it.
Action: I will make a morning pilgrimage into my yard and garden to see what's stirring each morning for a week (unless it's snowing as it was this morning!). And I'll record my observations and reflections, in full-on Annie Dillard style.
I've long considered writing a small book about my imperfect forays into suburban permaculture. One of our favorite summertime activities is to stroll about our small, oddly acute-triangle-shaped yard and "survey our domain", appreciating all the flora and fauna. Would you be interested in my efforts and minor catastrophes? The mole in winter? The battle of the orchard masons and the yellow jackets? The deer and the cherry tree? The rat and the hens? The heather's rebellion and the block dogs' revenge?
MFB, slowly and steadily,
p.s. You'll enjoy this trailer...Listen closely, friends...
p.s. And for all you Crazy-for-Books blog hoppers, I'd say that, in addition to what I offered above, Ms. Bailey - certainly the central human character of this memoir - seems observant, self-deprecating, thoughtful, and - as one might well understand - alternately sad and determined. Although this memoir focuses on the snail, her fascination with the creature offers us many glimpses of her compassion and empathy for all beings as well. And she was a professional gardener before her illness, so we read about her love for the plant kingdom too. In retrospect, and thanks to this question, she's a character well worth meeting. I hope you'll try her book.