On my Bedside Table

Saturday, February 07, 2009

The Snake Charmer

A Life and Death in Pursuit of Knowledge
by Jamie James

Picked this one up after a cursory glance -- it looked cool -- a guy stomping around Burma in search of rare species. I was about two pages in when I realized I'd heard the story before in an Outside magazine article a couple of years ago -- an excruciating account of a herpetologists fatal encounter with a many-banded krait, and the heroic but failed attempt of his colleagues to save him. I couldn't finish the article. Just couldn't bear thinking about that they went through (I'll admit I have issues with Outside magazine when they do things that to me almost border on snuff films).

I stuck it out though and made it through the book and I'm glad I did. It was good to know more about what kind of person and scientist Joe Slowinski was, more about his family and the people he worked with. It made it more of a eulogy and less a voyeuristic horror like that article. I also like learning more about the academic scene of the life sciences, what it's like to make your living (or not) doing something that crazy 19th centurey explorer/collectors did. I learned a bit about snake biology and taxonomy too. Definitely a worthwhile read, but not for the squeamish...


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