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Arjun and the Good Snake

In his latest book, Arjun and the Good Snake, author Rick Harsch takes off the gloves and gives himself a good pounding. In equal parts a memoir, a confession, and an ophidiological dissertation, the book is an unsparing account of a man (Harsch) struggling to come to grips with his fragmented mind, his excesses, and his humanity, as he and his son wander the wilds of India on a holy grail snake quest.

This is not always an easy read, for it is deeply philosophical in places and emotionally wrenching; but if you don't know, for instance, how horrific was the result of Vasco de Gama's second visit to India--the terror he wrought; if you don't know about the wines of the upper Adriatic and their effects – their joys and the challenge they pose to families of those who love them too much; if you are interested in reading perhaps the most wide ranging available introduction to India – her mythology, culture, history, landscapes, cities, and the daily lives of her people; if you have ever struggled with addiction; if you want to know how to and how not to relate to a wife and child...This book is well worth the read. Reminiscent of Fred Exley's A Fan's Notes, this is a book that remains inside readers, challenging them to look away, daring them to try to forget.

"The moving and utter honesty of this story of the narrator--and his son's--quixotic quest for a Russel's viper and cobra in the wild is matched only be the wealth of mythology, history, philosophy, and natural history that run like streams of story through Arjun and the Good Snake. Underlying all this is the touching gentleness of the relationship at the core of the memoir, father and son, and the personal demons the father must fight in order to safeguard that relationship. In this fine literary memoir that often strays gleefully into fascinating asides, the narrator's journey – from the first impolite injunction by his 2-year-old son to tales of terrorist (or revolutionary) monkeys to the final showdown with the ever-elusive cobra – is compelling all the way. A rich and rewarding tour de force; highly recommended."

—Prasenjit Gupta, author of A Brown Man

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