Object Lessons is a series of short, beautifully designed books about the hidden lives of ordinary things. Feared and worshiped in equal measure, snakes have captured the imagination of poets, painters, and philosophers for centuries. From Ice Age cave drawings to Snakes on a Plane, this creature continues to enthrall the public. But what harm has been caused by our mythologizing? While considering the dangers of stigma, Erica Wright moves from art and pop culture to religion, fetish, and ecologic disaster. This book considers how the snake has become more symbol than animal, a metaphor for how we treat whatever scares us the most, whether or not our panic is justified. Object Lessons is published in partnership with an essay series in the The Atlantic.
We give no creature as much cultural meaning as we do the snake, as Erica Wright shows us in this winning tour through history and biology, religion and fear, medicine and fashion. But the real meat of this book is Wright's bright sensibility. What she sees when she writes about snakes includes: environmental and biological apocalypse, the meaning of fear, existential crises trying to sleep through the night in an absolutely dark cave, the complicated sublime, the grace alongside the fangs...awful and beautiful together. That's the genius of this book: the self as both instrument and subject. As it turns out, what we talk about when we talk about snakes is ourselves. * Ander Monson, Professor of English, University of Arizona, USA, and author of I Will Take the Answer (2020) *