The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating

When Elisabeth Tova Bailey was laid flat after a serious illness and successive relapses, her interactions with the outside world were drastically reduced. She had a caretaker to help her, and friends and family who came to visit, but her day was condensed into a series of moments. She writes, "each moment felt like an endless hour, yet days slipped silently past. Time unused and only endured still vanishes, as if time itself is starving, and each day is swallowed whole, leaving no crumbs, no memory, no trace at all."

So when a friend brought a land snail living in a pot of violets to her room, Bailey began watching the snail go about its daily life. With her own life slowed to a snail's pace, Bailey became absorbed in the little creature she was now cohabitating with. She studied its eating habits--listening to it munch on wilted flower petals or a piece of portobello mushroom in the dark of the night--and its sleeping patterns, and she examined the way it moved on its slime trail.

She also did tremendous research on snails, reading old books written by naturalists and scientists, and she deftly interweaves what she discovered about the gastropod into her narrative. Although illness forced Bailey's life to come to a screeching halt, her writing in The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating is a meditation and a call to slow down, to take life at a more leisurely pace, so that nothing, even something as seemingly inconsequential as the life of a land snail, is missed. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

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