Sunday, February 17, 2013

Big Snake Review

Big Snake by Robert Twigger

(from the book jacket) 

Scanning the internet for poetry prizes, Robert Twigger discovers the Roosevelt prize for capturing a live snake longer than thirty feet. The $50,000 prize has been unclaimed since 1912. About to be married, Twigger sets off for the Far East, making sure his last adventure as a bachelor is a big one.

Part travelogue, part classic adventure, Big Snake grapples with the mythic symbolic status of one of the world’s most fascinating creatures. Along the way, Twigger hunts for reticulated pythons in the sewers of Kuala Lumpur, survives on greasy civet cat in the jungle, attempts to date the most beautiful woman in the world, encounters the cobweb hunters of Buru and evaluates the legacy of Alfred Russel Wallace (‘the true discoverer of evolution’). After a few close shaves with snakes of all sizes, Twigger eventually comes face to face with the big one – but the final capture is not quite what he had in mind.

Big Snake is both moving and comic – a poetic quest and a real adventure, which paints a portrait of the Malay and Indonesian archipelagos seldom even suspected.

This book is part memoir, part travelogue, and part adventure story. Twigger, who knows nothing about snakes or the jungle, decides that it would be a good idea to try to win a $50,000 prize by catching a snake over 30 feet long. Along the way he learns a lot about snakes and so do we, like why you want to carry snuff into the jungle with you. But even though there is a lot of information here he kinds of sneaks it in a little at a time and you don't always even realize that you are learning something because it fits in so well with the flow of the story. And in his quest he enlists the help of some very colorful characters who are eager to help even if they don't understand what it is he is doing. And as he introduces you to all the people he meets along the way you learn about their culture and their land. You also get a look into his own life and stories about his grandfather that make the story more personal. At turns informative, funny and exciting it is worth a look if you like stories about adventure and exploration, even if you don't care that much about snakes. The ending did seem a bit abrupt though so it was slightly unsatisfying.

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