Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal

by mary roach | Nonfiction |
ISBN: 0393081575 Global Overview for this book
Registered by wingGoryDetailswing of Nashua, New Hampshire USA on 4/26/2015
Buy from one of these Booksellers: | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon DE | Amazon FR | Amazon IT |
2 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by wingGoryDetailswing from Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Sunday, April 26, 2015
I got this hardcover at Toadstool Books in Milford NH.

I've loved Roach's work since I read her first book, Stiff, and her subsequent titles Spook, Bonk, and Packing for Mars have been a lot of fun. This one's the most recent entry. and features more fun, fascinating, and often gruesome writing from Roach, who opens the book with an account of her own experience in having a "pill cam" take images of her own digestive tract. (She notes in her introduction, "I don't want you to say, 'This is gross.' I want you to say, 'I thought this would be gross, but it's really interesting.' Okay, and maybe a little gross." Hee!)

The topics include the importance of odors in tasting, the science behind flavors in pet food, and what triggers food preferences (some scientific elements, some personal biochemistry, a *lot* that's purely cultural). Regarding cultural bias, she notes "So powerful are race- and status-based disgusts that explorers have starved to death rather than eat like the locals." There's a chapter on the famous case of Alexis St. Martin, the man who suffered a stomach wound that healed leaving an open fistula through which his doctor, William Beaumont, conducted many experiments in human digestion. Roach looks at the case from the victim's - er, patient's - viewpoint as well as that of the scientist, something that my teachers glossed over when mentioning this case.

The chapter on saliva is, for me, one of the squickiest in the book, for a number of reasons, all of which Roach addresses - including the main one, which is: why is it perfectly fine to swallow spit when it's already in our mouths, but not once it's outside? [Definitely do NOT read this chapter while trying to eat. Or most of the rest of the book either, come to that!]

The chapter on "how to survive being swallowed alive" has its own disturbing bits, especially when referring to experiments on whether - and how quickly - live creatures would be digested. The more light-hearted (for me, anyway) part of this chapter had to do with the reputed cases of people surviving being swallowed whole by very large fish or by whales - the Jonah story, effectively, though as Roach points out, that story's unlikely to be realistic without the divine-intervention angle. Among the choice lines here: "If you must spend time in a digestive organ, I recommend the penguin stomach" - because they can shut down their systems such that digestive juices and churning action stop, so they can carry food back to their young over long distances without digesting it all first.

Another delightfully gruesome chapter deals with the question of the eaten doing the eating - that is, eating their way out of the stomach of their consumer. Some nice nightmare fodder in here, too!

Then there's the eating-contest chapter, analyzing how people can train themselves to stuff insane quantities of food down the plumbing; this hobby has always struck me as very distasteful, not to mention wasteful, but I was interested in the hows and whys presented here.

And then there's the chapter "Stuffed," which shifts to the other end of the system - it focuses on the ability of people to store things in their rectums, primarily for purposes of smuggling contraband (into countries or into prisons). This chapter has a mix of humor, grim reality, and startling practicality-under-difficult-circumstances.

Subsequent chapters touch on intestinal gas (both belches and farts), including a suggestion for the myths about fire-breathing dragons, having to do with very large snakes and decomposing stomach-contents - not nearly as cool as the magical kind of fire, right? Further topics include enemas, constipation (in which is a reference to the insanely huge megacolon on display in the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia; I visited there once and was aghast to see the thing close up), and the treatment of various bowel ailments via "gut microflora transplants".

The book as a whole is a reminder of how complex and amazing our digestive tracts are, and how worthy of respect. (Jokes, too, but - seriously - respect!)

[There's an audiobook version of this as well; the narrator does an excellent job. And this Wondermark comic takes the whole concept to another level {grin}.]

Journal Entry 2 by wingGoryDetailswing at Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Sunday, June 28, 2015

Released 5 yrs ago (7/8/2015 UTC) at Nashua, New Hampshire USA


I'm putting this book in the Medicine Chest bookbox. Hope someone enjoys it!

Journal Entry 3 by wingNancyNovawing at Lansdale, Pennsylvania USA on Saturday, July 18, 2015
Taking from the Medicine Chest bookbox.

I never read Roach before, but this book looks intriguing

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