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Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal – Mary Roach

Gulp

If you’re a fan of fart jokes, like me, then you’ll love this book. Gulp takes a holistic look at the entire process of eating, with each chapter touching on some aspect of the process. And of the seventeen chapters, fully three of them are more or less about farting.

The book wasn’t organized quite the way I expected. I kinda assumed it would be a little more focused and scientific, following a linear path from the mouth to the butt. However, rather than taking this direct approach, Roach rather uses it as a baseline to head off on interesting tangents – the chemistry of spit, can animals or people survive being swallowed by other animals, the mechanics of smuggling contraband with your ass, etc. I suppose I should have expected this, since it’s the same approach used in the other book of her’s I’ve read, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers.

I like Roach’s mix of science, humor and her eye for the bizarre. She also makes liberal use of footnotes, many of which are used to insert humorous asides. For example, in the chapter where she explores if it’s possible to survive being swallowed by a whale, she has the following footnote following a sentence about the possibility of a sailor being swallowed by a sperm whale:

I challenge you to find a more innocuous sentence containing the words sperm, suction, swallow, and any homophone of seaman. And then call me up on the homophone and read it to me.

So yeah, pretty entertaining.

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