Monday, July 8, 2013

Big Gulp

In the past decade science writer Mary Roach has made a name for herself with her quirky best-selling books about life and death (Spook), sex (Bonk) and now this fun and rollicking read about the alimentary canal, Gulp . . .which takes us on an excursion beginning with the tongue and ending with the anus.  Yes, there's no delicate way to describe the human process of eating and what scientists are discovering about the food we eat, what happens to it after we eat it, and how we eliminate what we don't use.

But Gulp is a fun read--a book that I stowed on my beach vacation last week and read in a single sitting under a blazing afternoon sun and a quiet red sunset over the waters of lake Michigan.  Reading Gulp made me want to eat something so I could test the theories set forth about digestion, flatulence, and regularity.  (See, nothing delicate about these subjects!)

What makes Mary Roach's books so fascinating is her research.  Where does she find these people and these programs?  How did she know where to find the world's preeminent fart expert, for example, and how did she know that some of the best research on testicles is being conducted at, get this, Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana? 

If you find any of these matters even remotely interesting (from a scientific perspective, of course . . . not as a means to impress and astound your friends over dinner conversation) then you'll love reading Gulp.  The book begins with the most up-to-date information about human saliva (what it is, how it works, why we have it) and ends with the most recent medical advancements in the area of fecal transplant.  You think I'm joking, but turd transplants are catching on as a means of healing a great many colon-related diseases and some doctors are laughing all the way to the bank.

After reading Gulp I attempted to describe my new-found appreciation for all things alimentary, but my wife and daughter were not impressed.  They were watching a beautiful Michigan sunset and did not want hear about how Beano works or how to soften a stool. 

I don't get this total lack of scientific respect from my family, especially since my wife is a science teacher and my daughter sometimes uses the word "colonoscopy" . . . but then, I do have a tendency to discuss the books I'm reading.  Lord knows they never want to hear about the books I'm writing. 

But that's another story . . . and i find it really hard to swallow.


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