Saturday, February 1, 2014

Gulp! TMI*

"Gulp - Adventures on the Alimentary Canal" by Mary Roach   W.W. Norton & Co.  348 pages   $26.95

It really is a pity that Christmas has passed - this book would do wonders for the hypochondriacs perched delicately in the family tree. 

Roach has made a successful writing life with regard to the "odd sciences" which is a layman's term for an entire book about cadavers ("Stiff" which was, in its own way, very interesting) and now the politely-phrased alimentary canal which starts at the nose and descends to a flush of the toilet. 

Along the way Roach takes us to a pet food taste test lab where grown-ups from the various pet food makers test the appeal of their various offerings with a pack of dogs who happily live there.

There was a fascinating case study of a man accidentally shot with shotgun whose stomach never closed around the wound.  His stomach was visible to the naked eye and for 30 years a scientist supported him and housed him just to see how quickly certain foods were digested.  What I want to know is, how the hell he didn't die of gangrene.

Could "Fletcher-izing" lower the national debt?  This is a weighty question posed by Horace Fletcher who proposed that the longer one chews one's food, the longer it takes to eat anything and thus the stomach feels sated long before it really is and so, less food is eaten.  Roach remarks that meals were rather lengthy affairs and quite tedious due to the lack of conversation.  I visualized cows sitting around a formal dinner table...

As far as the squeamish factor goes, I enjoyed the chapter on mega-colons (you don't want one;)  speculation constipation killed Elvis (probably) but I totally choked on a proposed visit to a saliva lab.  For a woman who can read an autopsy scene  in a psycho killer book while happily eating her lunch, this is rather inexplicable. 

*  Too Much Information

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