A literary gut check from author Mary Roach

'Gulp' by Mary Roach
'Gulp' by Mary Roach
Book cover courtesy of publisher

Mary Roach has an unusual fascination with the human body. She's written about human cadavers, the science of sexual physiology and how the body can live in space. In her latest book, "GULP: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal," Roach brings us inside our own digestive systems to answer some very unusual — and sometimes disgusting — questions about our bodies.

The canal is the path followed by food from the time it enters the body to the time it exits. "It's right up my alley," Roach told Terry Gross on Fresh Air. "It's a little bit taboo. It has to do with the human body. ... the gastrointestinal tract and the mouth are really fascinatingly bizarre and kind of marvelous."

The book does not appeal equally to everyone. A reviewer for the New York Times, for example, thought it crossed the boundary of good taste:

"Take the frequent, and really quite juvenile, medical student gallows humor. She seems quite over the moon about a Frenchman whose stomach exploded as a result of a botched colonoscopy in 1977. For her this was an 'internal Hindenburg scenario,' the colonoscope was 'launched from the rectum like a torpedo.' Terrible deaths are scattered for amusement throughout the book."

The Boston Globe, on the other hand, forgives the elements that make Roach's work colorful: "Some of what Roach writes about breaches the boundaries of polite conversation — though she insists, 'my aim is not to disgust' — but it's also endlessly entertaining."


The Science Behind How People Chew Their Food
"We all chew our food differently — slow, fast, left, right, even side-to-side like a cow, author Mary Roach writes in her book 'Gulp,' a study of how humans digest food. If you're not concerned with manners, the many ways individuals grind up their chow is trivial, since it all goes to the same place." (Business Insider)

Mary Roach on The Daily Show in 2010


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