Friday, March 20, 2009

Don't Sleep, There are Snakes - a Review

I rarely read books that I don't finish, and rarely publish reviews that are negative. The publisher of this book wrote such a glowing description that I was doubly disappointed after reading it.

I found this book so irritating that I just skimmed that last half of it. I have a life-long interest in the subjects, Amazonia and linguistics and anthropology, however both the poor writing style and author's unaccountable choices of what to tell, what to leave out, overcame my interest in the subjects.

There is no doubt in my mind that Daniel Everett's knowledge of a peculiar indigenous people's language and culture is unique and that his life among them in the world's most prolific and diverse biosphere was immensely interesting. I found his style of telling it flat, his prose meager, and his time line jumbled without any overriding sense of purpose. In the end, my experience of the book was extremely frustrating. It takes an unusual alchemist to turn the gold of such experiences into the leaden account in "Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes".

The book holds value for students of anthropology and linguistics, and I appreciate what I learned of the Piraha people. I just wish Everett had written a different book.

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