Friday, November 13, 2009


when mary roach writes anything, i know i'll be donating or selling or christmas wrapping some part of myself for a future generation. she's honestly that persuasive. the first time around it was cadaver research, and i made latonya promise me - over dinner, no less - that she'd give my leafy little rodential body to a school or a lab or a film crew. that was the first time i read mary roach. this time, she's writing about sex and orgasms. i can't even begin to imagine the conversations around the still family dinner table over the next few days. 

"honey, mary roach finally helped me find a scientific use for my four inch nipple hairs!"

okay, maybe that was unnecessary, but if you can't joke about your own nipple hairs, whose nipple hairs can you joke about?

simply stated, mary roach is delightful. she speaks directly to my inner geek by digging into questions i would never admit to wanting answered. as i told a friend today, this woman has a super sick sense of humor and a relentlessly guilt-free curiosity, so much that i let the "perversely" twisted side of my nerdiness off the leash to romp about vicariously in her books. she's like that one super cool mom who takes the neighborhood kids to heavy metal shows and horror flicks because all the other parents are total prudes.

for instance, roach's first book - STIFF: THE CURIOUS LIFE OF HUMAN CADAVERS - explores the possible scientific destinies (and automotive fates) of corpses donated to science. sure, it sounds morbid (and it is), but mary roach has a way of turning the details of decomposition and disembowelment into one of the funniest books i've ever read. the bit about crash test subjects being outfitted in leotards and adult diapers was nearly too much. and i think of those poor seeping stiffs often while strapping on my seatbelt. because of mary roach, the hamster will never rot in a box or an urn - this temple will be studied and jabbed and prodded and unlayered and joked about for years to come. 

or, if i had it my way, they'll toss me in a ballerina's get-up and i'll crap my innards between a brick wall and a mercedes benz. one can only dream. 

*   *   *
just this past week in class, we read one of mary roach's article about the amount of insects the FDA allows in our common food products. the students squirmed and revolted, but i could tell they secretly loved every gratuitous detail roach provided. one student even came up to me, rubbing his stomach and making a nauseated face, and said, "mr. still, i wish we could read more stuff like this. i've never lost my appetite while reading before."

in the process of preparing the article for my classes, i found that mary roach recently published on the only topic more fascinating to me than death and defecated innards: sex. and not just regular old christianized marital sex, but sex research, sex science, sex in the laboratory, sex between the sheets of statistics and on the cold slab of hard concrete data.

 AND SEX  yesterday in our school library, and while i'm not certain it actually happened or if it was just paranoid placebo effects from a college teacher carrying around a SEX book, i'm pretty sure the librarian cut me a curt little glance. and i bet he likes cleavages, too.

yes, ma'am, as i matter of fact, i do like cleavages.

even though i'm at the last quarter of two really great books right now, i couldn't resist peeking beneath the covers of mary roach's sex book last night, and i have not put it down since.

because i have only just begun reading BONK, this post is not a review. rather, i'm bringing you a preview of mary roach's exploration of sexual science. as a taunting little peek, i'd like to share the first paragraph of the first chapter, titled "The Sausage, the Porcupine, and the Agreeable Mr. G: Highlights from the Pioneers of Human Sexual Response" - 

Albert R. Shadle was the world's foremost expert on the sexuality of small woodland creatures. If you visit the library at the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, in Bloomington, Indiana, you will find six reels of audio recordings Shadle made of "skunk and raccoon copulation and post-coitus behavior reactions." (Nearby you will also find a 1959 recording of "Sounds during heterosexual coitus" and a tape of the "masturbatory sessions" of Subject 127253, which possibly explains why no one ever gets around to listening to the raccoons.)

with an opening paragraph such as this, you can only expect things to get better. and they do. trust me, they get much better.

*   *   *

by the way, since this is a film site, i would like to include a little film clip of mary roach chatting up rare facts about orgasms. personally, i love how much we can hear mary roach giggling at her own jokes and at the sheer absurdity of saying words like "imitation ejaculate" and "stimulation of the pig vulva" in an enormously packed mixed gender auditorium. this clip alone gets 4.5 orgasmic monkey faces out of 5.

(okay, you're right, there was no need to rate the video. i really just wanted to say "orgasmic monkey faces" in public, and i don't have a packed auditorium and a microphone to really give the phrase justice. one can only dream.)


Erin said...

love love love this review - can't wait to discover Mary Roach for myself. Sounds like she's living the dream & is possession of one mighty fine brain!

myleswerntz said...

I already can't wait to read this. I didn't realize she wrote STIFF: I read that back in my Barnes and Noble days and loved it!

Tiffani R said...

Hamster! You are my book guru after this review! I'm totally going to order this (well, maybe over winter break, since I have to read so much for school right now...) :)

Thanks for the rec, Kev!

Becky said...

I cannot wait to read BONK!! fun times ahead!