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Zero at the Bone: Rewriting Life after a Snakebite Paperback – April 19, 2007

4.7 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Toso is at his best writing about the desert.” —High Country News

"Toso writes with simplicity and clarity about his near-fatal, life-shattering encounter with a rattlesnake. Toso used his pain and trauma to rethink his relationship to the animal world and to death itself. Toso's deeply personal work does not seek or accept easy answers; it deserves broad readership and critical acclaim." —Library Journal

"This book is an inspiring voyage into the heart of a profound spiritual awakening, illustrating that our personal narrative of the world—largely born of conditioning and habit—is but one of many possibilities, and can change in the twinkling of a snake's eye." —Tucson Weekly

About the Author

EREC TOSO teaches writing at the University of Arizona. He has written essays for The Sun: A Magazine of Ideas, The Briar Cliff Review, Northern Lights, and other literary journals.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: University of Arizona Press (April 19, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0816525919
  • ISBN-13: 978-0816525911
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,651,025 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Ernest P. Schloss on May 8, 2007
Format: Paperback
Erec Toso, by stepping on a rattlesnake, unwittingly embarked upon the modern version of the shamanic journey. He descended through pain and near death to that place where important gifts are given and brought one back for all of us: the message to wake up and pay attention.

Toso skillfully braids together multidimensional narratives, much like, in his words, the healing symbol of the caduceus is balanced by intertwining snakes. One level is that of the rattlesnake and its environment. We must wake up to the fact that we are destroying its southwestern desert habitat, and by extension, all habitats. Henry David Thoreau and Edward Abbey would approve of Toso's fierce call to change our relationship with the places in which we live.

Another level is paying attention in our relationships with each other. Toso describes, in sometimes embarrassingly honest detail, his own journey with the toughest relationships of all--family. Toso calls us to notice the ways in which we hurt each other and offers paying attention as the first step in healing our family wounds. When Zen masters speak of "chop wood, carry water," the work of transformation sounds bland. What Toso describes, however, is the messy, sloppy, and sometimes jagged business of struggling to jettison old patterns of thinking, reacting, and feeling in that psychic caldron we call family. This healing work is hardly bland.

While others might have descended into a narcissistic tale of personal triumph or a ranting diatribe against the evils of modernity, Toso does neither. With self-deprecating humor he offers up his own journey with all of it imperfections. His observations and lessons learned along the way are humbly displayed as one example of how we can negotiate these times and places in which we precariously live. Toso masterfully crafted his message to make it accessible and real, and his call to wake up got my attention.
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Format: Paperback
Zero at the Bone: Rewriting Life after a Snakebite

In Zero at the Bone: Rewriting Life after a Snakebite, Erec Toso reveals that he is clearly a superb writer and ultimate educator. He teaches us the facts of biology, ecology, herpetology and medicine, while leading us through his spiritual journey in a way that illuminates our own. Erec's healthy addiction to the desert and its inherent perils is beautifully woven through this intricate story of transformation.
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Format: Paperback
"Zero at the Bone" has ruined my life. His writings are the words, sentences and expressions that I would like to be able to use to express my thoughts, feelings and experiences. However, I know I will never be able to do it, as well as he has.

"Zero" is the story of Erec Toso, a 40ish Tucson writing teacher and runner, who received a life threatening rattlesnake bite that affected and changed his life (for worse and better). It was one of the best written and most engaging books I have ever read. I have highly recommended it to all my male-female angst friends, aging athletes, Tucsonans, and lovers of fine writing (that covers everyone I know).

"Zero" is actually 3 books: First, before the bite, he writes of the male-aging angst: "My heart grows hard when certain subjects come up. It bars entry, switches on the security system, lets threats trigger the lockdown of emotions under siege.....There are questions I am not strong enough to entertain, that are too big to digest......" I call this part of the book - "Telling life How It Is Before a Snakebite".

Then, there is adventure and mystery, as we suffer through the actual physical trauma of the injury with him, not knowing how this will ultimately affect Erec or his family or if he will even survive.

Finally, it becomes philosophically descriptive of how his life changed and actually benefited from the snake-bite.

I can identify with Toso; He lives where I live, thinks my thoughts, shares my concerns about the world and the environment. The glaring difference is that he is able express these feelings.

And in addition to "ruining my life", his writing may have also "saved" my life by helping me realize I'm leading MY LIFE now. "This is not a practice run; there are no do-overs."
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I relate to the struggles outlined in this book. Values, your own, or what you thought were your own, can shift as you age, and sometimes you find that what you thought was so important really doesn't even count. The story is one most people have some affinity with. A very good read.

My book club just read this, and there was a lot to talk about. Everyone in our group seemed to have something to say. The author happens to be my first cousin. I had emailed him just before the meeting and he responded with a couple of questions for us. They are worth sharing, and they are as follows:

* How does water work as both literal bringer of life and metaphor for other aspects of the mind?

* How does your self-talk work to keep you (the reader)from direct experience of life energy in your day-to-day routines? What are the stories you tell yourself and how do they serve you in some way?

* How does trauma or crisis contain seeds of possible change when it happens?

* When do you feel most alive, most "in the zone" of contentment, presence, or communion with others?

* What is the role of "observing witness" in watching the mind and how can it help to disengage from all the emotions that get triggered when things don't go according to plan?

I hated to kick everyone out at the end of the evening. Everyone wanted to stay, to keep sharing. Thank-you Erec for writing a book that I could really connect with, and that our little neighborhood book club had such success with.
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