Yes, Spinrad aspires to make us less leery of our poop, our piss, our puke (not to mention flatus, vomit, urine, mucus, saliva, ear wax, semen, smegma, menses, sweat, toe cheese, and female ejaculate). To that end, Fluids isn’t the vulgar tour de farts you might expect. Rather, Spinrad plumbs his subject in a clinical voice, allowing himself the luxury of such bawdy vernacularisms as “drain the main” and “poot,” but principally writing in a just-the-facts-ma’am deadpan. Still, Spinrad can’t resist the occasional bait-and-switch that such dry prose affords: After describing the core ingredients of a butt burp—arguably less a fluid than a harbinger thereof—he segues by writing that “like snowflakes, each fart is a little different.”
Spinrad further attempts to bring secretions into the polite conversation by detailing the relation of bodily fluids to historical figures (like Thomas Crapper, who designed the modern toilet-flushing mechanism, and constipation-sufferer Mao Tse-tung), literature (booger-picking in Thomas Selby Jr.’s Last Exit to Brooklyn), and film (the infamous, vomit-drenched Mr. Creosote sketch from Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life). Spinrad also delves into the world’s scatological customs, the history of sanitation, and just what the hell’s up with those “shelf toilets” found in Central and Eastern Europe.
However, Spinrad’s attempts to play the serious researcher stumble in light of the fact that this guide to “bodily fluids” doesn’t cover such mundane liquids as vitreous humor, or even blood. Rather, the author’s focus on the categorically vile betrays him as a guy who loves to talk shit, but finds good ol’ plasma tiresome. This is no surprise: RE/Search has long specialized in fact-based humor (earlier volumes include Incredibly Strange Films and Bob Flanagan: Super Masochist).
And anyway, let’s be honest. Most of the cretins that grab this book are just looking for a few yuks, and Spinrad happily delivers, particularly in the form of survey results that lead off Fluids‘ early chapters. “Ever pinch a loaf so big that it stuck out of the water?” “Ever fart into your hand? Did you sniff your hand afterwards?” “Ever throw up into your mouth and then swallow it again?” Spinrad presents yes/no percentages for these and many other queries, as well as quoting selected anecdotal responses that are simply hilarious. And while Spinrad’s survey sample of 66 men and 40 women is hardly comprehensive (he handed out questionnaires on the UC Berkeley campus and also received responses from random freaks lurking Usenet sites like rec.humor and alt.tasteless), he insists that it’s a reasonable cross-section of “young adult Americans.” Or, more precisely, those Gen Xers who are just as interested in shitzanfartz as Spinrad is.