TM: Do you find that people are more squeamish to ask you questions about the digestive tract than they were on your earlier book tours, when the topic was the afterlife or space?
MR: Oh no, no. Once you open the door for them, people want to know all kinds of things. … The other day I was doing an author lunch at Google; people had a lot of questions about rectal smuggling.
“I think digestion is another lurid, taboo subject — particularly from the navel down. But even what goes on in the mouth is an unthinkable, revolting thing that no one wants to think about. There was a sense that this was right up my stinky little alley.”
From cadavers to space travel, Mary Roach focuses on our world’s most natural curiosities – and now she’s diving into perhaps the most natural curiosity of all: digestion.
“These thoughts begin, for most of us, typically, in childhood, when we are making eye contact with a pet or wild animal. I go back to our first family dog, a preternaturally intelligent-seeming Labrador mix, the kind of dog who herds playing children away from the street at birthday parties, an animal who could sense if you were down and would nuzzle against you for hours, as if actually sharing your pain. I can still hear people, guests and relatives, talking about how smart she was. “Smarter than some people I know!” But when you looked into her eyes—mahogany discs set back in the grizzled black of her face—what was there? I remember the question forming in my mind: can she think? The way my own brain felt to me, the sensation of existing inside a consciousness, was it like that in there?”
- John Jeremiah Sullivan on animal consciousness