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Popular Science

Series: Animal Series (Reaktion Books)

By: Peter Williams

167 pages, Col & b/w illus

Reaktion Books

Paperback | Oct 2009 | #182441 | ISBN-13: 9781861895288
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £12.95 $17/€15 approx

About this book

So attached was the author Patricia Highsmith to snails that they became her constant traveling companions. Secreted in a large handbag or, in the case of travel abroad, carefully positioned under each breast, they provided her with comfort and companionship in what she perceived to be a hostile world. Theirs was perhaps an unusual relationship; for most of us snails do not elicit feelings of warmth or affection, or a desire to share our living space. Apart from our repugnance at their appearance, our relationship with the snail has been influenced by the harm it has inflicted over the years on our cabbages, potatoes and garden seedlings.

Volumes on snails are universally hostile; their language is often heated and full of military metaphors. 'Understand the enemy as a first step to banishment', says one, while another urges us to 'stop them in their tracks with a barrier or a trap'. While the majority of gardeners would agree with this sentiment, "Snail", by Peter Williams, presents a more positive account of this much-maligned creature. Beginning with an overview of our relationship with snails, slugs and sea-snails, he goes on to examine snail evolution; snail behavior and habitat; snails as food, medicine, and the source of useful chemicals and dyes; snail shells as collectible objects; and snails in literature, art, and popular culture.

The author concludes with a plea for a reconsideration of the snail as a dignified, ancient creature that deserves our respect, rather than one to be squashed thoughtlessly underfoot after a shower of rain. Containing many surprising and quite beautiful illustrations, and written in an approachable, informal style, "Snail" will prove instructive to all who thought that this animal was simply a garden pest to be enthusiastically destroyed.

there is more to the snail than meets the eye-on-a-stalk. From the use of marine-snail shells in antiquity and the discovery of the snail's suprisingly complex anatomy in 18th-century dissections, to the symbolism of monopods in painting and literature (they stand, or rather slime, for slowness as a "way of life"), this book exerts a hypnotic fascination. The Guardian an enjoyable PR job for the mollusc The Independent In Peter Williams' Snail, we discover that human-mollusc interactions go far further back than allotments all the way to some of the earliest forms of money and adornment. Admirably the book also forced me to reconsider my vigorous prejudice against the slimy, seedling-munching beasts. In fact, the opening paragraph is so striking that it alone won me over. BBC Wildlife magazine Snails seems an unpromising subject for a book; yet Peter Williams presents these much-maligned creatures in a sympathetic light. Many of his illustrations bear witness to the beauty of their shells, and the evolution, growth and geometry of these structures makes a fascinating story. International Zoo News

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Peter Williams is a doctor based in Oxford, UK.

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