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Few opening sentences will divide readers faster than the one from Josh Richman and Anish Sheth‘s little handbook, What’s Your Poo Telling You: “Not unlike a snowflake, each bowel movement has a uniqueness that should be regarded with wondrous appreciation.”
The rapturous language sort of forces you to rethink our culture’s traditional stance on human waste: as a source for endless poop jokes. Hell, just last week a friend sent me a link about a new diet drug that could cause oily, fatty dumps. He thought it was hilarious—-because it was.
Actually, What’s Your Poo Telling You doesn’t take its stinky subject too seriously. In fact, it has a sort of fun, informational, children’s book quality about it. Well, a children’s book with gross, Hustler-esque illustrations in it. Never once during the course of their 96 pages do Richman and Sheth use the word “shit.” There’s some sort of honor in that.
Instead, the authors—-brought together at (where else?) Brown University by “their shared fascination with the diversity of poo”—-divide the book into nearly 30 sections with titles such as “Monster Poo,” “Braille Poo,” “The Snake” (pictured), “Soft Serve,” “Log Jam,” “Ring of Fire,” and the “Clean Sweep.” Each section gives a brief, often hilarious description of the shitty situation in question, followed by Sheth’s short medical explanation. Sheth’s a doctor who, at present, is a gastroenterology fellow at Yale University School of Medicine. Once Yale sees this book, Sheth may be selling high-tech Japanese toilets at Home Depot.
All jokes aside, the book is quite instructional. I learned what ethanol does to the bowel after a hard night of drinking; I learned that the “inner layer of the mouth and the anus are lined by the same type of cell,” which explains why chili peppers irritate you on both the front and back ends; I even learned why “dropping the kids off at the pool,” as a friend calls it, can feel so exhilarating.
And if that’s not enough, I found out that a caterpillar can shoot its turd five feet in the air, which, as the authors explain, “would be the equivalent of the average human being launching his or her stool over two hundred feet!” That sounds like a South Park episode just waiting to happen.