The Old Man and the Swamp: A True Story About My Weird Dad, a Bunch of Snakes, and One Ridiculous Road Tripby John Sellers
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/b>/i>
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.
“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 easyjust 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
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  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.
- Simon & Schuster
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- SIMON & SCHUSTER
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- 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 johnsellers.com.
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