Visit the new Snail on the Wall

I’m pleased to announce that the new Snail on the Wall is open and ready for readers! Here’s what I ask of you, my loyal followers and fellow book lovers:

  1. Click here to visit The Snail on the Wall’s new book blog.
  2. On the new website, enter your e-mail in the “Get SNAIL MAIL” box at the right side of the homepage. (Rather than getting an e-mail every time there’s a new post, you’ll get a monthly newsletter featuring the top articles from the past few weeks.)
  3. Take a tour of some of The Snail’s new features, including Book Club Guides for your book club.
  4. Spread the Snail news to other readers. The Snail on the Wall is on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

[NOTE: This may be the very last e-mail you receive from The Snail—unless you sign up for Snail Mail on the new website.]

Thanks for continuing to follow The Snail on the Wall. I’m looking forward to many more reading adventures together.

— Lady

Return of The Snail

Snail on the Wall - Logo - Transparent - HiRes-02

We all know snails move slowly, but over the past year The Snail on the Wall has been almost at a standstill. Almost.

Behind the scenes, this blog has been gearing up for a new look and a fresh perspective. The new site will hit the Internet sometime next week (don’t try to pin down this particular snail), and it will bring you recommended reads and reviews, guides for book club discussion, and other articles for lit lovers. I hope you’ll like what you find.

Stay tuned for the big reveal . . .


Take an Irish Poetry Crawl for St. Paddy’s Day

Pint of GuinnessThis post appeared on Book Riot on St. Patrick’s Day of last year. Find it here.

According to Irish lore, you can’t walk down a street in Dublin without passing at least one pub. That bit of trivia, whether entirely accurate or not, means there are endless possibilities for a pub crawl, that age-old tradition of touring as many drinking houses as possible in a single outing. In Ireland, there’s a poet to be found on just about every corner as well. So, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, we want to celebrate by combining two of the Emerald Isle’s greatest traditions: verse and drink. We’re taking you on a good old-fashioned Irish poetry crawl, but for this experience you won’t have to leave your chair or lift a pint—unless you want to go grab a Guinness and drink along.

The bards we’ve chosen will treat us to a true pub crawl with all the usual elements: plenty of drink, a lot of fun, and maybe even a little debauchery. Come along!


Our crawl gets off to a raucous start with poet Patrick Kavanagh, who’s serving up the hard stuff—whiskey, rum, and gin. In Kavanagh’s satiric poem “The Paddiad,” the devil brings together a handful of Ireland’s most popular writers to drink and debate literature. Reading this opening stanza from the poem, we down the first drinks of our journey, while still managing to hold the devil at bay.

 In the corner of a Dublin pub

This party opens—blub-a-blub—

Paddy Whiskey, Rum and Gin

Paddy Three sheets in the wind . . .        

                            — from “The Paddiad” (1949), by Patrick Kavanagh



What’s a night on the town without a little love thrown into the mix? Irish master William Butler Yeats hosts our next stop with a little ditty about drinking and romance. Known more for his politics, mysticism, and myth, here Yeats focuses on the simple pleasures in life. It’s not clear whether the poem ends in pleasure or pain, but that’s true of most barroom romances, right?

Wine comes in at the mouth

And love comes in at the eye;

That’s all we shall know for truth

Before we grow old and die.

I lift the glass to my mouth,

I look at you, and I sigh.

— “A Drinking Song” (1916), by W. B. Yeats




The stout is still going down easy at the next pub, which takes us back to the Gaelic days of old. “The Yellow Bittern,” translated by Thomas MacDonagh, is based on a true classic, an Irish-language lament called “An Bonnán Buí” by 18th-century poet Cathal Buí Mac Giolla Ghunna. It’s a response to the teetotalers who might be saying it’s time to slow down. We’re sticking with the poem on this one: we have a ways to go, and we want a few more pints to fortify us for the journey.


My darling told me to drink no more

            Or my life would be o’er in a little short while;

But I told her ’tis drink gives me health and strength

            And will lengthen my road by many a mile.

                    — from “The Yellow Bittern” (1913), trans. by Thomas MacDonagh



Emboldened by drink, we’re bound to start some trouble. It happens at our fourth stop, where we enjoy an old Irish-language poem composed by a 16th-century bard named O’Bruadair and translated for posterity by Dubliner James Stephens. We were merely asking for a beer—just for the “loan” of it, in fact—but maybe we didn’t ask nicely? We’re not hanging around for the rest of this poem; based on the first stanza, we’re not likely to make friends here.


The lanky hank of a she in the inn over there

Nearly killed me for asking the loan of a glass of beer;

May the devil grip the whey-faced slut by the hair,

And beat bad manners out of her skin for a year.

                        — “Righteous Anger” (1918), trans. by James Stephens




The next destination is more hospitable. It’s Yeats again, a familiar voice that bids us come in and make ourselves at home. But as the night wears on things take a turn for the worse, often the case when guests overstay their welcome (or, as Yeats tells it, when the English completely crash Ireland’s party). By morning, when we come to, the festive atmosphere is gone. And we’re not feeling too great either.


I came on a great house in the middle of the night,

Its open lighted doorway and its windows all alight,

And all my friends were there and made me welcome too;

But I woke in an old ruin that the winds howled through . . .

                        — from “The Curse of Cromwell” (1938), by W. B. Yeats



We’ve hit one too many stops, and overindulgence has taken its toll. When Samuel Beckett, the Irish-born French expat, greets us, we know we’ve bottomed out and entered a bleak, existential place. Taking advantage of our wasted state, Beckett convinces us that life is not only mournful but maybe even meaningless.


I would like my love to die

and the rain to be falling on the graveyard

and on me walking the streets

mourning the first and last to love me

                                                — “Poem” (1948), by Samuel Beckett



Modernist Denis Devlin plays host near the end of our tour. But we no longer have the brainpower or the sobriety to follow his meditation on God, humanity, and the modern world. We listen to a few lines and, unfortunately for us, all we hear is incoherent babbling.


It was said stone dreams and animal sleeps and man

Is awake; but sleep with its drama on us bred

Animal articulate, only somnambulist can

Conscience like Cawdor give the blood its head

For the dim moors to reign through druids again.

O first geometer! tangent-feelered brain

                        — from “Lough Derg” (1946), by Denis Devlin



It’s time to head—or crawl—home, fittingly to the rhythm of a soothing Irish 19th-century ballad. After a long evening of many stops and much to drink, we’re ready for rest, relief, and the comfort of a mum’s arms. Until next year . . .


Lulla lo! to the rise and fall of mother’s bosom ’tis sleep has bound you,

And O, my child, what cosier nest for rosier rest could love have found you?

                        Sleep, baby dear;

                        Sleep without fear;

            Mother’s two arms are clasped around you.

                   — from “Irish Lullaby” (1873), by Alfred Perceval Graves

Correcting Grammar One Song at a Time

For some of us, every day is National Grammar Day. But did you know that one date has been designated to pay homage to punctuation, parts of speech, and all things grammar related? Today, March 4, is a day of celebration for rule followers everywhere. Last year, The Snail offered 10 Heartfelt Sentiments to send to your language-loving friends. Now we’re seeing how some of our favorite song titles and lyrics play out when we give them a grammatical tune-up. Take a look; can you think of any other musical mistakes that could use a fix?

Correcting Grammar_U2


Correcting Grammar_Push It



Correcting Grammar_Ghostbusters



Correcting Grammar_One Less Problem


Correcting Grammar_Dylan



Correcting Grammar _BTO



Correcting Grammar_Foreigner

(All above images labeled for noncommercial reuse with modification.)

10 Books That Will Transport You

Yesterday, a “Top Ten Tuesday” topic over at The Broke and the Bookish got me thinking about the power of geography in literature. Every good book transports its readers somewhere—to another time, place, or experience. But certain books leave a geographical impression that is likely to remain beyond the last page. If you’re in the mood for a short trip, without the security checks and jet lag, let one of these titles take you. These books—both fiction and non—will transport you somewhere you’ve probably never been and that you usually can’t go on your own. Come along.Vintage Travel Paper With Map and Compass




Henry VIII’s court—Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel

If you can navigate the sometimes treacherous language and confusing dialogue of Mantel’s prize-winning novel, you’ll get to go where most average citizens are never allowed: behind the scenes of the Tudor court during the reign of Henry VIII. Chief minister Thomas Cromwell will be your guide, as you follow the king around trying to persuade him of one bit of reform or another. Ultimately, Cromwell provides an up-close look at the inside of the Tower of London, otherwise known as the royal prison.




Appalachian Trail—A Walk in the Woods, by Bill Bryson

So maybe you can hit the Appalachian Trail anytime you like, but you probably won’t pack the sharp wit or keen observation skills of humorist Bill Bryson. Join him on this journey, and I promise your own trek will be the richer for it—if you ever take it.




Turn of the 20th-century Dublin—Dubliners, by James Joyce

To really get acquainted with a place, you need to spend time with its people, right? That’s exactly what happens when you read the 15 stories of James Joyce’s classic collection. Ireland is a small country, and all of the Dubliners Joyce introduces us to are living small lives, doing everyday things. But each character is on the verge of something big, an epiphany that may change everything. This book gives you a tour not only of Dublin’s pubs, shops, and shores, but also the human heart.




Mid-century America—On the Road, by Jack Kerouac

You’ve never experienced a road trip until you’ve accompanied beatniks Dean Moriarty and Sal Paradise on the original road trip. They will show you a wide swath of late-1940s America, from west to east and back west again. You might have to hitchhike part of the way, and you won’t always like your traveling companions, who often act moody, childish, and irresponsible. But you’ll see an awful lot of cool scenery on the way.




Pacific Theater of World War II—Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand

I never said these destinations were going to be desirable. This nonfiction best-seller—soon to hit movie theaters—will give you the uncomfortable sensation of being circled by sharks while going without food and water for some 40 days. The next leg of the trip with hero Louis Zamperini heads to Japan, where he survives several POW camps and then explores the aftermath of the atomic bomb, before returning home to California.




New England and the High Seas—Moby-Dick, by Herman Melville

The Pequod welcomes you aboard in 19th-century Nantucket, back when the island was home to whalers and not high-society vacationers. The moment you set sail, you’ll realize that Captain Ahab is holding you captive on his quest for revenge. It’s a long, long, long journey, but you won’t soon forget your whale-hunting expedition with Ishmael in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans.




India upon the birth of its independence—Midnight’s Children, by Salman Rushdie

The story of Rushdie’s main character, Saleem, is a story of India. The two are so intertwined (Saleem having been born on the night that India achieved its independence) that, as we learn the personal past of Saleem and his family, we are also getting to know the national history of India. This magical narrative will walk you through births, deaths, battles, and love affairs. And it all ends in a pungent place you might not expect: a pickle factory.


Post–Civil War Spain—The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Readers are so taken with the setting of Zafón’s perennial book club favorite that an actual tour has been added to the back of recent editions. Now, if you go to Barcelona, you can retrace Daniel’s search for mysterious author Julián Carax through the back alleys of Barcelona. It’s a pity that, in real life, we can’t also visit that wonderful labyrinth that lives only in the pages of Zafón’s novel: the fantastic Cemetery of Forgotten Books.










The Judean Desert—Quarantine, by Jim Crace

If you’ve read your Bible but found it hard to imagine Jesus’s 40-day experience in the desert, here is a different sort of account to take you there. You’ll spend time cave-dwelling not only with Jesus—who is very human in Crace’s reinterpretation—but also with some other sojourners who are likewise seeking redemption in the wilderness.



The African Congo—Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad

This book is for adventurous souls who don’t mind taking a mysterious journey down the Congo River, deep into the African jungle, to find a man about whom a lot is said but little is known. You’ll come face to face with the good, the bad, and the ugly aspects of British imperialism at the turn of the 20th century. And you will, indeed, eventually meet the man called Kurtz, as you try to ascertain the real “heart of darkness.”