Our newest nonfiction book, beginning on Wednesday, July 10th, is one of the most interesting, informative, and fascinating books you’ll ever hear. It’s also one of the most graphic. Be warned: it’s not for the squeamish. There are vivid descriptions of things our bodies do that may embarrass some of you, no matter how old you are and how much you’ve lived. No, it’s not filled with sex and violence. Instead, it’s a story of our insides, and exactly how they work. That’s why I asked a nurse to read it. I figured, hey, she wouldn’t faint or be shocked by anything she was reading. After all, if you’ve worked at a hospital, you’ve seen it all, right? So after she finished recording the book, I asked Ellen Hazard, the reader who is also an R.N., if she had learned anything she didn’t know before. “I now understand more about flatulence than I ever dreamed possible,” she modestly answered.
The book is GULP. ADVENTURES ON THE ALIMENTARY CANAL, and yes, it answers questions you never thought to ask, and describes situations you may never want to be in. Mary Roach is a rare and terrific anomaly–she’s a brilliant scientist who also happens to be outrageously funny and wildly enthusiastic about her profession. She’s also a clever and enchanting writer who somehow assures us that we can handle the knowledge she wants to share without gagging or fleeing the room–and she’s right.
With chapter titles like NOSE JOB: TASTING HAS LITTLE TO DO WITH TASTE (chapter 1) and STUFFED: THE SCIENCE OF EATING YOURSELF TO DEATH (chapter10) she examines food and digestion, and in later chapters like DEAD MAN’S BLOAT: AND OTHER DIVERTING TALES FROM THE HISTORY OF FLATULENCE RESEARCH (chapter13) she dares to discuss topics that are usually only of interest to 10 year old boys. (I also think having a job as a flatulence researcher must be one of the most awful career choices available.) And Chapter 16 is a doozy, since it deals with the lower intestine and Elvis’ death (trust me, you don’t want to miss that segment of the book.)
It says a lot about Mary Roach’s talent that this book was on the New York Times bestseller list and that it sold thousands of copies. Her previous books are equally as odd and every bit as absorbing: first, there was STIFF, which categorizes what happens to our bodies after we die; PACKING FOR MARS, which explores the changes and problems that occur to individuals in outer space; and BONK, described as “an intensive study of science and sex.” With her great intelligence and rollicking sense of humor, Mary Roach treats every aspect of our existence with wonderment and awe, and yes, respect. Tune in to hear this remarkable book for yourself (but don’t say I didn’t warn you!)
You can listen to GULP. ADVENTURES ON THE ALIMENTARY CANAL at 9 am and again at 9 pm on weekdays, beginning on Wednesday, July 10th, on WRBH, 88.3 FM, Reading Fine Print.