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The Snakebite Survivors' Club


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In his debut, A Fez of the Heart (LJ 4/1/96), Seals journeyed to Turkey in search of the symbolic hat, providing readers with an entertaining and insightful portrait of a country. In this account, Seal shares an even more unusual trek that enabled him to confront his fears of snakes, activate his imagination, and satisfy his curiosity. Visiting America, Africa, Australia, and India, Seal sought out a variety of unusual and poisonous snakes and discovered snake-related folklore, superstitions, worshipers, religious cults, and naturalists. Filled with a wealth of well-researched and entertaining information on everything from the python and mamba to the puff adder and cobra, this is as much a natural history book as a travelog. At times it will have you laughing, at others shaking your head in disgust. The only drawback is the lack of chronological order, which distracts from the flow of the book as a whole. Nonetheless, the content is excellent and proves an eye-opening read. Recommended for all public libraries.--Jo-Anne Mary Benson, Osgoode, Ont. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Equal parts exotic adventure, naturalist lore, soul-baring confessional and offbeat history, this elegant travelogue focuses on serpentsÄin the wild, in diverse cultures and in myth, religion and the popular imagination. Determined to overcome his lifelong fear of snakesÄand to probe his obsession with themÄEnglish journalist Seal sought out and interviewed snake-bite survivors and snake experts on four continents. His maverick odyssey opens with a Southern gothic horror tale in Alabama, where a wife-beating, hard-drinking, snake-handling preacher tries to murder his wife by getting his church's diamondback rattlesnakes to bite her. In both Alabama and Tennessee, Seal attends rapturous congregations where handling of venomous snakes is part of Christian ritual (literally following the biblical injunction, "They shall take up serpents"). In Australia, he meets a Stetson-wearing outbacker (named Dundee, of course) who survived a lethal snake bite. Through tales of snake lore, Seal charts Australia's metamorphosis from dumping-ground for convicts to independent frontier nation. In south India, he found that the traditional Hindu reverence for snakes persists, in sharp contrast to the West, where the serpent is usually associated with sin or evil. In Kenya, Seal visits a snake park and meets mchowis (witch doctors) who dispatch snakes to bite wrongdoers. In 1776, a rattlesnake with 13 rattles adorned the American flag, symbol of the rebellious colonists' fierce independence. Seal's delightful book may forever change the way readers think about snakes; his serpentine forays into human folly, superstition, courage, fear, cruelty and benevolence verge on the Monty Pythonesque, and his footloose, open-minded spirit recalls Bruce Chatwin. (Mar.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

A white-knuckled voyage . . . enlarged by historical detail and squinty-eyed
snapshots of the scaly global outback."-Outside
Seal tells fascinating stories and complements them with lore that is funny,
gruesome, and mesmerizing."-Men's Journal
Mr. Seal has a gift for bringing to life the sensations caused by snakebite. . . .
An affable and wide-ranging travel book."-The Wall Street Journal

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