The Old Man and the Swamp: A True Story About My Weird Dad, a Bunch of Snakes, and One Ridiculous Road Trip [NOOK Book]


I have nothing against snakes, provided that they’re hundreds of miles away from me. And I have nothing against my dad, given the same set of conditions.

In a fit of questionable judgment, consummate indoorsman John Sellers tags along on a journey to search for snakes with his eccentric, aging father—an obsessive fan of Bob Dylan, a giver of terrible gifts, a drinker of ...
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The Old Man and the Swamp: A True Story About My Weird Dad, a Bunch of Snakes, and One Ridiculous Road Trip

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I have nothing against snakes, provided that they’re hundreds of miles away from me. And I have nothing against my dad, given the same set of conditions.

In a fit of questionable judgment, consummate indoorsman John Sellers tags along on a journey to search for snakes with his eccentric, aging father—an obsessive fan of Bob Dylan, a giver of terrible gifts, a drinker of boxed wine, a minister- turned-heretic, and, most importantly, the self-designated guardian of the threatened copperbelly water snake.

The quest is their fumbling attempt to reconnect. Decades of bitterness, substance abuse, acrimonious divorce, and divergent opinions about personal hygiene have conspired to make the two estranged. Sellers has just begun to develop a new appreciation for the American wilderness, and all the slithering creatures that populate it, when his father’s deteriorating health thwarts their mission and disturbs their tentative peace. Determined to finish what they started, he ventures back into the swamp— alone, but more connected to his dad than ever. With big-hearted humor and irreverence, The Old Man and the Swamp tells the story of a father who always lived on his own terms and the son who struggled to make sense of it all.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Sellers (Perfect from Now On: How Indie Rock Saved My Life) and his father never had an ideal relationship: as a child he preferred video games and solving Rubik cubes to the outdoors, while his idiosyncratic father was "a self-made weirdo" who gave up the Lutheran ministry to pursue a less-than-middling career in the study of snakes. Their bond was strained even more after his parents divorced, and his father spiraled farther down with nominal income, drinking, and even more weirdness. But with his father approaching 70, they embarked on a redemptive journey to a swamp in Michigan in search of the endangered copperbelly water snake—his father's most cherished species. The quest for snakes and finding peace with one another form the book's narrative drive—both pursuits offering great potential. Although the ending of the book surprises and pleases, Sellers's storytelling, early on, relies too heavily on jokes and repetitive references to television shows and movies, with little to say on nature for readers with an authentic interest. Even though he eventually warms to his father's obsession, Sellers admits he still finds snakes "kind of gross." (May)
From the Publisher
“I want to ride in a car with John Sellers and his father. This book is honest, hilarious, and always interesting. Sellers is a fantastic writer. He's not just some douche who got famous from a Twitter page.”—Justin Halpern, author of Sh*t My Dad Says

“John Sellers is an exceptionally funny writer. And I’m not just saying that because he knows how to use a shotgun.”—A.J. Jacobs, author of The Year of Living Biblically

"I was driving in a truck with my buddy, and he picks up this book from the floorboards and right away he starts laughing. Like within seconds. And then he reads me a couple lines and I start laughing too. But John Sellers' The Old Man and the Swamp has more than just humor going for it. It offers some amazing insights into the most inspiring and aggravating man that any of us will ever meet: our dad.”—Steven Rinella, author of American Buffalo and host of Travel Channel’s “The Wild Within”

"Fast and easy—just the way I like my books." —Chris Elliott, author of The Shroud of the Thwacker and Into Hot Air

"John Sellers has always been a funny writer, and he is very funny here. But as he travels with his herpetology-obsessed dad — himself strange as a snake — his journey twists and turns in surprising, fascinating, and touching ways, with a little hiss of heartbreak thrown in. YES: I am saying that this book is itself like a snake, and it is going to consume you slowly and lovingly, as a snake eats a mouse." — John Hodgman, author of The Areas of My Expertise and More Information Than You Require

Kirkus Reviews

The swamplands of southern Michigan receive a surprise visit from a blogging Manhattan journalist and his feisty elderly father.

Early on, Sellers (Perfect From Now On: How Indie Rock Saved My Life, 2007) admits to a distinct abhorrence for "unnecessarily daunting" outdoor activities. Leaving the pleasurable confines of his home meant exposing himself to treacherous environs teeming with bugs, the horror of sharks and quicksand and "the constant menace of ickiness." Also low on his to-do list was spending time with his quirky, estranged father Mark, a stuttering, antisocial former Lutheran pastor turned herpetologist who drove his long-suffering wife to divorce him after 19 years). In a farfetched effort to somehow rekindle a father-son bond, Sellers voluntarily accompanied his 70-year-old dad on his yearly three-day excursion to the Michigan swamps [25] in search of the "endangered copperbelly water snake." It would be the longest amount of time they'd spent together in well over two decades, he confesses. The hundred-mile road trip into the quagmire is surprisingly rife with honest revelations for both the author, who bemoans his father's frail appearance yet respects his "consuming passion," and Mark, who emotionally argues the negative perceptions of snakes in popular culture and the escalating "suburbanization" of land he'd once surveyed. After their initial trip was cut short, Sellers, though recognizing his father's physical limitations, embarked on a second swamp voyage—only this time much better prepared (less kvetching!) and at peace with his co-pilot. As the author relates memories of a bittersweet childhood, their swamp escapades reveal a deeper meaning. Throughout, Sellers tests the bounds of the relationship with honest attempts at harmonizing with a father who'd become a stranger. With the swamp trips painstakingly accomplished and this heartfelt, Hollywood-ready narrative written, the author would do well to simply hug his father and stay put indoors.

An unconventional, funny and touching family adventure.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416592464
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 5/3/2011
  • Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 1,200,697
  • File size: 7 MB

Meet the Author

John Sellers is the author of Perfect From Now On: How Indie Rock Saved My Life and has written for GQ, The Believer, The Atlantic, and The New York Times, among many other publications. Originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan, he currently lives in Brooklyn, New York. For more information, visit
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