Mary Roach tackles how it all goes down in ‘Gulp’

“It was the last taboo that I haven’t covered,” Roach says of her latest endeavor. Credit: Chris Hardy Photography
“It was the last taboo that I haven’t covered,” Roach says of her latest endeavor. Credit: Chris Hardy Photography

In most cases, an interview subject suffering from a bad cough wouldn’t be an ideal situation. But it’s oddly appropriate when the subject is Mary Roach, who can excuse herself with, “Speaking of mucoid substances, I’m launching some of them into your ear right now.”

Roach has built her career on her delight in probing aspects of the science of the human body that most people would rather just ignore. In “Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers,” she followed the body through its many strange post-mortem pathways; in “Packing For Mars,” she uncovered the less glorified side of the space program through zero-gravity toilets and long-term bedrest.

In her latest, “Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal,” Roach trains her sardonic, steel-stomached curiosity on the science of eating and digestion, finding laboratories where pet food is taste-tested, windows are opened onto a human stomach (literally), and those aforementioned mucoid substances are gathered and examined.

“It was the last taboo that I haven’t covered,” Roach says of her latest endeavor. “Once you take food off the table and put it into your body, it becomes an object of revulsion. People get very flipped-out and disgusted, so it’s yet another topic that I thought it would be fun to pull apart and explore.”

As with “Bonk,” her book about the science of sex, Roach is particularly fascinated by the way in which subjects that give us such pleasure have so many aspects we find utterly repulsive. “We have a little bit of disgust for all of our biological processes,” she says. “I don’t think that eating is unique in that way – if you strip away love and lust and all the higher trappings of sex,and you just take it down to what the bodies are doing and the substances involved, it becomes icky. Anytime you peel away the skin and reveal the fact that we’re just big bags of digesting, secreting, pumping, gloppy, sticky, icky stuff, it’s upsetting.”


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Memorial held for Sean Collier, MIT police officer…

More than 1,600 people gathered at MIT on Friday for a memorial service for Sean Collier, the police officer shot to death a year ago in the aftermath of the…

National

Florida man charged with murdering son to play…

A Florida man annoyed that his 16-month-old crying son was preventing him from playing video games suffocated the toddler, police said on Friday.

International

Powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake rattles Mexico

A powerful earthquake struck Mexico Friday, shaking buildings and sending people running into the street, although there were no reports of major damage.

News

OMG! Exercise can make skin (and butt) look…

A moderate exercise regime can turn back time and actually reverse the skin's aging process, according to new research. The study showed that a minimum…

Entertainment

Whoopi Goldberg makes her debut as marijuana columnist

"It helps my head stop hurting, and with glaucoma your eyes ache, and she takes the ache out. It's wonderful," she said.

The Word

Kate Middleton made fun of Prince William's bald…

Kate Middleton and Prince William are in Sydney, Australia, right now, and it sounds like that brash Aussie sense of humor might be rubbing off.

The Word

Is Tom Cruise dating Laura Prepon?

"Mission: Impossible" star Cruise is said to be dating Laura Prepon, star of "Orange is the New Black."

Television

'Scandal' recap: Season 3, Episode 18, 'The Price…

Sally is Jesus, Olivia caused global warming, and Mellie's still drunk. Let's recap the Scandal finale. A church full of Washington insiders is about to…

MLB

MLB video highlights: Red Sox defeat Orioles, 4-2

Brock Holt the difference in the Red Sox' win

NHL

NHL video highlights & analysis: Red Wings dump…

NHL video highlights & analysis: Red Wings dump Bruins in Game 1

MLB

MLB video highlights: Orioles top Red Sox, 8-4…

John Lackey roughed up for second straight outing

MLB

MLB video highlights: Red Sox score two in…

Lester shines in Red Sox win over White Sox

Parenting

How to parent without gender stereotypes in a…

Christia Spears Brown, Phd. author of "Parenting beyond Pink & Blue" gives advice on raising kids free of gender stereotypes.

Tech

VIDEO: 'Vein-scanning' may become the future of paying

Designed to make transactions quicker and easier, the technology works by scanning the unique vein patterns in each person's palm.

Tech

#FollowFriday: 10 of the smartest Twitter accounts

Spending lots of time on Twitter? You might as well learn something. Here are some of the smartest accounts to follow.

Style

Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.