Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Mary Roach

Mary Roach's new book is Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal.

From her Q & A with Mindy Farabee at The Daily Beast:

In Gulp, you write, “People who know anatomy are often cowed by the feats of the lowly anus.” The book as a whole ends on a note of awe and respect reminiscent of your feelings for space travel at the close of Packing for Mars.

Yeah, very much so. I think this is a losing battle, but I would love people to come around a little bit from the general position of disgust and revulsion they have for their insides, especially the below-the-waist portion of their insides. Every step of the way, I was kind of floored by how effortlessly complex and amazing it all is, and I would like to impart a little bit of that to people. You go through life with these things inside you—these guts, these organs—and you never see them and consequently you never think about them. Until something goes wrong, and then you think about them all the time.

One of the themes running through the book is how that disgust can cause our minds to get our bodies backwards. This has led to some kooky theories and practices, as with Sir Arbuthnot Lane, the Scottish surgeon who went around cutting out people’s colons as a cure for constipation.

Exactly. Our understanding of our bodies is very simplistic and intuitive. It’s not like everybody can take an advanced biology/physiology class—there’s no reason why people should know this stuff—but [then] we’re very susceptible to somebody coming along and saying the colon is a revolting, disgusting thing, and you’d be better off without it. It’s like, wait a minute, who says it’s revolting and disgusting? In what way? It’s life saving. It’s vital to how we thrive, and who we are. The arrogance of...[read on]
Learn about Mary Roach's six favorite books.

--Marshal Zeringue