On Monday I was driving and heard Mary Roach’s Fresh Air interview about her new book Gulp: Adventures On The Alimentary Canal. It was spectacularly geeky and spectacularly disgusting. And it was compulsively listenable, at least to people who are, like me, profoundly in touch with their inner Beavis. This is a characteristic exchange:
ROACH: Yes. And speaking of revolting, so as we make our way down the digestive system, again, I want to say to our listeners this is subject matter you might find very unappetizing. My apologies if you’re eating at the moment. But again, I just want to mention this is what’s going to happen in your system after you’re done eating.
GROSS: So, let’s go down toward the end of the digestive process. And I learned from your book that – something that should’ve been obvious, though I can’t say I ever thought about it at all, is that the rectum has a lot of nerve endings in it because?
ROACH: Well, the anus, specifically, is the champion here. The human anus is this ring of muscle and it’s highly enervate. It’s got tons of nerves. And the reason is that it needs to be able to discriminate, by feel, between solid, liquid and gas and be able to selectively release one or maybe all of those. And thank heavens for the anus because, you know, really a lot of gratitude, ladies and gentlemen, to the human anus. It’s kind of an amazing thing that it does. It’s very impressive.
Thank you, Champion Anus!
Roach talks about going into the basement of Philadelphia’s gloriously gross Mütter Museum, dedicated to medical anomalies, and seeing a necklace made out of hemorrhoids. Seriously, if you’re ever passing through Philly, blow off the Liberty Bell and go to the Mütter Museum. It’s fascinating and creepy, and if you don’t count certain lower Bourbon Street bars, pretty much the Champion Anus Hall Of Fame. Don’t miss the Colossal Colon:
If you like this sort of thing, this is the sort of thing you like.