Sunday, September 20, 2020

Erica Wright's "Snake"

Erica Wright's essay collection Snake was recently released as part of Bloomsbury's Object Lessons series. Her latest crime novel Famous in Cedarville received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. She is the author of three previous novels including The Red Chameleon, which was one of O, The Oprah Magazine's Best Books of Summer 2014. Her poetry collections are Instructions for Killing the Jackal and All the Bayou Stories End with Drowned.

Wright applied the “Page 99 Test” to Snake and reported the following:
From page 99:
All of which is to say, nature has a better handle on its business than humans, but that doesn’t stop us from meddling. […] Like birds, reptiles can also redistribute seed and are a food source themselves. If that doesn’t turn your head, there are plenty of nonvenomous snakes that kill and eat the venomous ones. In North America, we have the indigos and the kingsnakes. In South America, there’s the bona fide assassin the mussurana that dines on vipers. (The mussurana is technically venomous, but harmless to humans.) Snakes’ potential for advancing life-saving drugs seems endless.
The short answer is yes, page 99 is a pretty good representation of the book as a whole. This excerpt falls in the last essay where I make a final plea for why the snake should be appreciated rather than feared. There are always unforeseen consequences when messing with ecosystems. Consider the python invasion of the Everglades. (Not for nothing, invasive plant species are doing just as much damage—if not more—and receiving a lot fewer headlines.) In this chapter I discuss the owner of a dog kennel in Florida who killed the snakes he found in his facility only for the place to be invaded by rats. It took years and thousands of dollars to fix the problem.

Also, researchers learn so much from snakes. Not only does venom have a wide variety of medicinal uses (and is being explored as a treatment option for diseases ranging from cancer to muscular dystrophy), but snake movement is currently being studied in hopes of improving search-and-rescue robotics. The Georgia Tech Complex Rheology and Biomechanics (CRAB) Lab studies sidewinders and western shovelnose snakes for their ability to navigate tricky terrains.

Page 99 also hints at a theme I explore throughout the book: humans are a lot more dangerous than snakes.
Visit Erica Wright's website.

My Book, The Movie: Famous in Cedarville.

--Marshal Zeringue