Another Book I’m Reading

Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal, by Mary Roach

I just started reading this, and asterisks twinkle sporadically throughout the text. Because the content is so interesting and the style is so quirky, it’s actually quite hard to not look toward the bottom of the page to see what the asterisks mean.

So far, the book is about eating. Later on, I’m sure the book will also be about pooping, because that’s a part of the “adventures” in the title. I’m currently in a chapter about how organs are very, very nutritious and American culture grimaces at the thought of eating narwhal skin, for example.

But, footnotes. Chapter 3–entitled “Liver and Opinions”–describes an experiment where scientists served children 16- to 29-months different things to taste, for “until kids are around two, you can get them to try pretty much anything.” Among the lowest-accepted items was human hair. An asterisk bedazzled the word¬†hair, so I rushed to read the corresponding footnote and now I have to share it with you. If you’re squeamish, I suggest you ignore it, but if you can detach, here you go:

Compulsive hair-eaters wind up with trichobezoars–human hairballs. The biggest ones extend from stomach into intestine and look like otters or big hairy turds and require removal by stunned surgeons who run for their cameras and publish the pictures in medical journal articles about “Rapunzel Syndrome.” Bonus points for reading this footnote on April 27, National Hairball Awareness Day.

I read that last sentence and felt I’d missed out on serious bonus points. Still, I feel that I shouldn’t be giving myself so much credit for reading a book with so much¬† gross-out potential, because it’s actually a lot of fun to read. If you’re in the mood for some fun science writing and need a break from dense literature (like I do), check out this book.

Back to reading before dinner.