Wednesday, October 16, 2013

easy to swallow

Gulp: Adventures on the 
Alimentary Canal
- Mary Roach 

In the final paragraph of  Gulp, Mary Roach says something that confirms that she and I are indeed kindred spirits. I have long suspected as much, frankly. One of my favourite writers, Roach has always charmed me with her humour, her insatiable scientific curiosity and her bravery in letting her geek flag proudly fly.

But when Roach describes the awe and amazement that she felt while witnessing her own colonoscopy, I was really tempted to track her down and give her a call. Because I know we would be best friends.

Here's that final paragraph of Gulp:  

 "There is an unnameable feeling I have had maybe ten times in my life. It is a mix of wonder, privilege, humility. An awe that borders on fear. I've felt it in a field of snow on the outskirts of Fairbanks, Alaska, with the northern lights whipping overhead so seemingly close I dropped to my knees. I am walloped by it on dark nights in the mountains, looking up at the sparkling smear of our galaxy. Laying eyes on my own ileocecal valve, peering into my appendix from within, bearing witness to the magnificent complexity of the human body, I felt, let's be honest, mild to moderate cramping. But you understand what I'm getting at here. Most of us pass our whole lives never once laying eyes on our organs, the most precious and amazing things we own. Until something goes wrong, we barely give them a thought. This seems strange to me. How is that we find Christina Aguilera more interesting than the inside of our own bodies? It is, of course, possible that I seem strange. You may be thinking, Wow, that Mary Roach has her head up her ass. To which I say: Only briefly, and with the utmost respect."

I, for one, would be delighted to swap colonoscopy stories with Mary Roach and I have a feeling she would even be interested in viewing my colonoscopy photos and report card (A+ for adequate bowel preparation), which of course I kept. I plan to show it to my grandchildren at every possible occasion.

But I digress. Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal is a fascinating look at the digestive tract, from top to bottom. From Roach's visit to an olfactory lab and a dog kibble plant, from early crude experiments in human digestion to modern day fart science, and of course all the way through to the wonders of excretion, this book is drop-dead fascinating. Strangely, I do believe it to be suitable for the squeamish, although I wouldn't recommend reading certain chapters at the dinner table.

But do read it! It's fabulous! 


Eugene Knapik said...

Well, I'm putting this one on the reading list Barb.

John Mutford said...

Not as interesting I'll give her, but I'd still rather watch Christina Aguilera than have another colonoscopy.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Glad to hear that, Eugene! Any Mary Roach book belongs on every reading list.

I'm with Mary on this one, John, I found the actual procedure fascinating and highly watchable.

Lesley said...

Though I've never had a colonoscopy (yet) I still find it more interesting than most, if not all, pop stars.

Also, this part: There is an unnameable feeling I have had maybe ten times in my life. It is a mix of wonder, privilege, humility. An awe that borders on fear.

I love that. I feel like I have felt that, too. Not enough to get used to it, but enough to know what it is.

Thanks for sharing.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

That phrase struck an immediate chord with me too, Lesley. It feels like such a privilege to be allowed that feeling a few times in ones life.
And I too will choose physiology over pop stars any day.