CLJ Reviews the Serpent and the Rainbow by Wade Davis
[Editor's Note: this post is by Book Club's Phil "Hashbrown" Skipper and conforms in no way to the structure that all other write-ups follow. And that is what it, like Phil, is superawesome and un-containable. Enjoy!]
Lately, as I’m reading a book, I’ll write down words whose definitions I don’t yet know, or did know and have now forgotten. These lists of words usually end up filling an entire bookmark, usually the receipt of the book I’ve bought. These bookmark-receipts become mini time-capsules, thermochromic records of the time and place of purchase, scribbled over with a seemingly unrelated miscellany of words. Below is a copy of one such list, taken from the 1985 Warner Books Edition of The Serpent and the Rainbow by Wade Davis, with page numbers preceding the words (what can I say – I’m thorough).
7 unctuous 10 etoliated 13 perfunctory 47 desuetude 50 neem 50 peristyle 54 desultory 56 curanderos 57 scabrous 63 negativistic 71 quiescent 74 chromatic 78 sisal 78 calabash 80 caserne 81 canebrake 81 lakou 98 bagi 112 cabalistic 114 cako 125 urticating 126 vermifuge 183 convoi 221 undifferentiated 216 mapou 268 bathos 299 inimical
Sometimes I’ll look up a word and learn its meaning. I rarely remember the definitions, but take pleasure in the feeling of discovery some people have when learning a foreign language. Take “unctuous” for example:
1. characterized by excessive piousness or moralistic fervor, esp. in an affected manner; excessively smooth, suave, or smug.
2. of the nature of or characteristic of an unguent or ointment; oily; greasy.
3. having an oily or soapy feel, as certain minerals
1350–1400; ME < ML ?nctu?sus, equiv. to L ?nctu ( s ) act of anointing ( ung ( uere ) to smear, anoint + -tus suffix of v. action) + -?sus
If reading that doesn’t make you want to go out right now and read The Serpent and the Rainbow, then you are an unctuous dummkopf. Dummkopf!
If still curious, it’s about swashbuckling ethnobotanical drugged-out creole slave rebellion. With zombies.