I just finished the book The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, by Elisabeth Tova Bailey. I’m not even sure how I heard of this book, and all I knew going in was that it was about a woman’s convalescence in the presence of a snail. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book, honestly. I’m not usually into memoirs, but this didn’t read like a memoir to me at all. It was much more like observations of an old-school naturalist, with some musings on the side about how the snail’s life intersected with the author’s during a time that she was recovering slowly from a debilitating disease that left her in bed all of the time and very fragile with what kinds of stimulus she could handle. This snail, brought to her by a friend on a whim, quite literally saved her life, just by doing its snail thing. It’s charming and beautifully written, and philosophical in a way that isn’t grand or overreaching, more like the personal philosophy one can find in poetry. It’s a book I know I’ll revisit.
The book also is very studied and packed with mollusk facts. It has such a tremendous list of sources at the end, some of which I hope to read myself to get some more snaily goodness in my life. In particular, I’m currently in love with Kobayashi Issa, a prolific haiku poet. He has a searchable database of his haikus; seriously, check out just how many snail poems there are!
I like this one a lot, especially this translation by R.H. Blyth:
Climb Mount Fuji,
But slowly, slowly!