Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Snails & shins & quote marks

My copy of The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating arrived yesterday. I have read five chapters. It is deliciously simple and Zen and brilliant. I've already learned a lot about snails - the next time the plants in the garden are munched I may be more benevolent towards the muncher. The author, so far, rather glosses over the details of her own life, perhaps this will change, but I like this distancing mechanism. I am housebound today, in and out of bed, I overdid it on Monday and now my shins feel caned, exquisite pain in my ankles. This is what happens when I walk too much.

I have come across a reference (in this comments thread) to The State of Me and its absence of quotation marks in dialogue, and have done so a few times. Some find the missing marks a little confusing and think it is to reflect the brain fog of ME. It was not my intention but interesting that readers have felt this. I never use quote marks, that is just my style, it is probaby an energy-saving device and also I don't like the way they clutter the page. There are however quote marks in my story in the 50 Stories for Pakistan anthology (which has now raised £500 for the Red Cross!!!), this was to have uniformity in the book, and even that felt odd for me, at first, though I am totally fine with it, in this instance.

Am going to blow my own trumpet a bit: a lovely reader who enjoyed the novel and follows my blog wrote to me today and thanked me again, in bold(!), for achieving in your work what purely factual books on ME can't accomplish. She quoted an extract from The State of Me - amidst quotes from other books - and it took me a moment to recognise my own words. That made me smile.

Needless to say, I am on another mini-break from Wolf Hall (it's truly become a love-hate relationship, I hope it doesn't end in tears), the Elisabeth Tova Bailey is a welcome diversion. And I think everyone who is bedbound should have a snail.


kp said...

so glad you're loving it too! (was interested to see what a few more people thought of it...especially people on the 'outside' - sending a few copies off for christmas). next time you find a snail kidnap it for a little bit and listen to it munch - made me smile with delight it was so cute!

i quite like the way she doesn't make a huge feature of her illness, the little bits she does include are enough to give a really good insight into just how severe it is but without turning people off ( i hope) from the other joys in there. found it so soothing to style of writing is almost meditative.

anyway, enjoy the rest of the read!

nmj said...

I don't think i could be bringing the snails indoors, to be honest, I would be squeamish! I am happy enough to learn about them.

Yes, her illness is almost secondary, we don't really get a sense of the (physical) pain, more the tedium, and we know little of her family, friends, lovers. It is a very controlled, detached account, but I like it for that. A welcome antidote to the hyperbole of some memoirs.

But it is really all about the snail.

Amy said...

I haven't read the wild snail book yet, though it's on my shelf. I read an interview with the author a while back, and something which stuck in my memory was that she fed the snail flower petals, and at night in the dark she could hear the crumply chewing noise of petals being munched slowly by the snail (hence the book's title no doubt).

I like the last sentence of your post. I think I'd like a snail just now.

Susannah said...

I've just bought this too ... it arrived about a week ago but I was finishing another book (Room, by Emma Donoghue, just to get a plug in - excellent read!) and then the last couple of days my brain has been sadly absent, so I haven't started it yet. It's sitting by my bed looking at me and saying 'read me, read me!'

I never knew you could actually hear a snail eating. I'm thinking perhaps I'll have to have a little project to find and listen to one! Hehe.

nmj said...

Amy, I am glad you have the real book and not Kindle, it is so lovely just to hold, diminutive and slim. And there are nice drawings.

Susannah, It is a very easy read though I am sure I did not absorb all the biological details of the snails. But a gem, a real gem of a book. I have read mixed reviews of Room. I am unsure, a child's voice could be cloying, even if inventive? And comparison to The Lovely Bones, which I just could not read, make me even more unsure, but I will maybe get from library... Interested to read a review of Kindle version which complained of formatting and spacing probs, seems that ebooks are not without their flaws. The 'repaired' e-TSoM is still not up on AMAZON. I am so vexed!!!

Susannah said...

It *is* a lovely looking book isn't it! Really nicely designed. :)

I didn't actually read any reviews of room before i read it - i found it by chance on Amazon. I was really intrigued by the blurb and thought I'd give it a go - and it turned out to be a really nice surprise. I read it all in a couple of days which is unusual for me nowadays because of my neuro stuff.

I found the kids narration to be very genuine, actually - not so much of a gimmick as a different way to tell the story. It was, I thought, really clever how she inlaid his narration with things left unsaid. There was a real innate sadness in the fact that he was basically happy, for instance.

I know nothing about the author but she seems to understand how a kid would be affected by something like that. I could say so much more lol, but I don't want to give too much away in case you read it. If you do, you'll have to let me know what you think!

I tend to not pay much attention to people comparing this book to that because so much of the time it's just advertising ploys on behalf of the publishers, or reviews who are a wee bit up themselves, rather than anything to do with what the author was actually intending when writing it, lol. I didn't read the lovely bones - didn't sound like my kind of thing - but the only similarity from what I've heard of it, to room, is that it's from a kids point of view.

Ebooks are definitely not without their flaws lol. I hope they get the repaired version up and sorted soon ... must be so frustrating for you!! (Can people re-download when they buy a kindle book or is it a one time deal?)

vw said...

Santa very kindly brought me The Sound of a Wild Snail which I've been wanting for ages, I'm just about to tuck into it now! Sounds delightful! X