By Elisabeth Tova Bailey
By Pat Fero
The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating is the perfect book for me. The heft and
print size are exactly right. It's not too large and heavy, it is not very
long, and the print is very readable. The title causes me to ask the
questions: If the snail is wild then who hears it eating? Is that even
possible? Why write about a snail eating anyway?
The reviews say the book is "beautiful and moving and funny and sweet and
wise and profound." Did you know that Elisabeth Tova Bailey's book has just
been named to the top ten books of 2010 in Science & Technology by the
American Library Association's Book List Editors?
Elisabeth wrote The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating for us . . . for those with
Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It is a book written
about "being" . . . about observing . . . and about escaping the confines of
Elisabeth is bed bound, moved from her farmhouse to a studio apartment where
she has caretakers. A friend sets a small pot filled with violets dug up
from the woods beside her bed and says "I found a snail in the woods. I
brought it back and it's right here beneath the violets." Elisabeth wonders
why she would enjoy a snail and what on earth would she do with it? She is
unable to get out of bed to return the snail outdoors. Yet, now she is
responsible for this tiny living thing. The thought overwhelms her.
WHY? You know the answer. People with incapacitating ME and CFS can barely
take care of themselves let alone another living creature. We are confined
by illness and the challenges it brings are always with us.
Elisabeth writes on page 5: "When the body is rendered useless, the mind
still runs like a bloodhound along well worn trails of neurons, tracking the
echoing questions; the confused family of whys, whats, and whens, and their
impossibly distant kin how.. Sometimes my mind went blank and listless; at
other times it was flooded with storms of thought, unspeakable sadness, and
I am hooked on this book. I understand what the author is feeling and I want
to know more. What about the wild snail?
On page 6: "It was all I could do to get through each moment, and each
moment felt like an endless hour, yet days slipped silently passed. Time
unused and only endured, still vanished, as if time itself is starving, and
each day is swallowed whole, leaving no crumbs, no memory, no trace at all.
Do you feel what she means? Our sense of seconds, hours, days, weeks, months
and years change once this devastating illness has hold of us. What about
the wild snail?
Chapter 2 is called Discovery. Elisabeth watches the snail. It is alive
and moving slowly. On successive mornings, she sees small square holes in
scraps of paper, postcards, and envelopes that had been propped against the
lamp on the bed table. Thinking that the snail might need some other food,
she places withered flowers at the base of the pot. The snail moves to eat.
"The sound was of someone very small munching celery continuously.the tiny,
intimate sound of the snail's eating gave me a distinct feeling of
companionship and shared space."
Early on Elisabeth discovers that the snail can move a distance in her
bedroom before returning to the flowerpot in the morning. What if someone
stepped on its delicate brown shell? Caretakers find a glass terrarium and
landscape it with moss, leaves and bits of native plants. Elisabeth reads
that snails like to eat mushrooms and a portabella is placed in the "little
There you have it. Elisabeth cannot get out of bed, but over months she has
so many questions about the snail that she lives those questions.
Chapters weave Elisabeth's limits and lack of "functional capacity" with the
phenomenal abilities and quiet habits of a snail. Snails live in small
colonies, yet they each live very hermit-like lives. "I knew there were
other people homebound from illness or injury, scattered here and there
throughout rural towns and cities in the world. And as I lay here, I felt a
connection to all of them. We too were a colony of hermits."
Elisabeth Tova Bailey, an observer of Gastropods, read so many books and
articles on snails, that she has become somewhat of an expert. On another
level, Elisabeth is an expert on living with this devastating illness. It
took her four years to write The Sound of A Wild Snail Eating.
I am still thinking about Elisabeth's observations. This is a good
read-realistic-but also inspiring. The book can help educate your family
members, your doctor, and your friends about the reality of living with ME
Please help spread the word, go to your bookstore, go online, or request The
Sound of a Wild Snail Eating at your local library.