You know you’re sick when you can’t even summon the concentration, energy, or book-holding muscles to read. That’s how I’ve found myself these recent weeks, having made it through winter with not so much as a sniffle only to be mowed down by a heavyweight-hitting November flu, which flattened me so comprehensively I begged my parents to make and bring me over the other thing I could swallow: mashed food.
You’d think that this unexpected but enforced downtime (even from writing for this here blog) would mean maximum time for reading, but sadly not. Instead, there’s been a lot of time lost to the unproductive illness-and-foetal-position ether.
I have to say that there’s something particularly galling about not even being able to walk to the bathroom without thinking you’re so fatigued you just might die but that then, after crawling back into bed, neither being able to sleep nor pass the healing time by reading. In fact, I think I’ve discovered what my definition of hell is and hope never to experience it again.
Coincidentally, I listened to a podcast of Radio National’s The Book Show (and even struggled to do that) where they interviewed author Elisabeth Tova Bailey about her book, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating. I haven’t read the book yet, but I recognised well the premise of Bailey’s (or is it ‘Tova Bailey’s’?) experience that in turn led her to write the book.
Basically, an immune-depleting illness meant that she spent a very, very long time confined to bed, unable to read, write, or essentially do anything. Much longer than my week or two and I, frankly, don’t know how she didn’t lose her mind. It was during this confinement that she started to observe a common woodland snail (neohelix albolabris). It became a kind meditative lesson in observation and life and, of course, a way to prevent her from going completely batty.
I’m not good at drawn-out contemplation and have long acknowledged that I’m a plot-driven reader and need to be taken somewhere in order to stay engaged, so it’s highly likely that a book observing a tiny snail on a nightstand might just break me. Especially as that sense of frustration of being too sick to function but unable to truly rest is still too fresh.
But I can appreciate the cleverness of the idea, and its execution is, if the resoundingly positive reviews are anything to go by, incredibly well done. You can watch a small YouTube trailer and listen to the sound of a wild snail eating here.