Sefer Hadash/New Book: “The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating”

Rabbinic Pastor De Fischler Herman, Mashpi’ah Ruchanit,  reviews the book, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey, in the Fall 2012 edition of the Journal of Research Administration.  [JRA is published twice a year by the Society of Research Administrators and  addresses the arts, sciences and technologies associated with research leadership, administration, management and support. ]   Elisabeth Tova Bailey has been suffering from an unnamed autoimmune disease for 20 years. The very act of having a telephone conversation requires her to lie flat in her bed and still depletes her energy. Through sheer will and a gift for narrative,  she has written and published The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, a beautiful book that simultaneously connects the reader with the natural world, the science of mollusks, and the world of one confined to her bed.

From  De’s review of the book:

“As a spiritual caregiver I am constantly reminded that I am blessed and privileged to be at the bedside. There but for the grace of God go I. After all, I could be in that bed. I am moved by their suffering and the strength of will to live fully and with dignity every day they are gifted to wake up. They are my greatest teachers.”

“Ms. Bailey has spent two decades searching for an understanding of the illness
that has befallen her. In studying the life of the snail, she wonders about the evolution of
viral and bacterial pathogens, cellular DNA rearrangements, and DNA for other animal
traits potentially buried in her own genetic code. She writes, ‘And how, I wondered, did the
mysterious virus that had felled me change life inside the cells of my own body? Would there
ever be a switch I could flip to instantly restore my health?'”

“Throughout the book, the author deftly weaves her personal journey with that of
the snail, expounding on the metaphor of its structure, care, and feeding, and inspired by
its curiosity and grace. Her fascination with the creature moves her to a broader inquiry
into the world of mollusks. It is from this vantage point she interweaves the world of the
incapacitated sufferer of an autoimmune disease with the history and culture of mollusks and
their utility in research.”

“The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating is a work that bridges the left and right brain,
the worlds of thinking and sensing, of intellect and felt experience. It is a remarkable book
written by a curious and courageous woman who tackles the challenge of living each day
with purpose–to advocate for herself and others with autoimmune diseases and to find
meaning and hope in the natural world. By sensing her journey, this text moves research
executives, leaders, and administrators to reflect carefully upon what research really means to
the human condition. And in such reflection, the leadership of research administrators makes
a difference in the way that universities and institutions approach research itself, namely not
just as a potential profit-making venture, but as a means to improving the human condition
and saving lives.”

To subscribe to the Journal and read De’s full review of the book, click here