Dutch biologist Midas Dekkers presents a personal, cultural, scientific, historical and environmental account of shit, from the digestive process and the fascinating workings of the gut, to the act of defecation and toilet etiquette. With irreverent humour and a compelling narrative style, Dekkers brings a refreshing, entertaining and illuminating perspective to a once-taboo subject.
Midas Dekkers is a bestselling Dutch writer and biologist. His books include Physical Exercise, The Way of All Flesh, Dearest Pet and The Larva.
Now, for your enjoyment, here are ten fascinating facts about shit:
- As they say in southern Germany, ‘guat geschissen ist halbat gevöglt’—‘a good shit is half a shag’.
- Although not every bowel movement can measure up to a run-of-the-mill orgasm or a tender Christmas turkey, shitting is among the simple pleasures that make life worthwhile.
- Skatole is the substance that makes shit smell like shit.
- Defecation today is at the same stage that sex was during the reign of Queen Victoria. It’s more done than talked about.
- In the modern West there’s little demand for cookers that run on turds.
- Bones in your turd would do considerable damage, especially to your delicate intestinal wall. So, instead of bones, a wise turd contains fibre to serve as its skeleton.
- The size of the biggest human turd will always be unknown as long as no contests are held.
- The prestige of human manure reached a high point during the Cultural Revolution. According to Mao, your turd did not belong to you but to your entire commune.
- Archaeologists have their hands full trying to recover Roman villas that have been completely obliterated by faeces… If you look at it this way, the entire country is one big dung hill.
- Australian dung beetles only like marsupial dung, which is nice and dry and fibrous. A floppy cow pat is not the sort of thing that makes their mouths water. This may testify to their good taste, but it left the Australians with a problem. Just as a Dutchman tackles his problems by setting up a new commission, so the people of Australia decided their problems had to be solved by importing a new species of animal. Two centuries after the arrival of the cow, dung beetles were brought in, this time from Africa. The beetles discharged their duties beyond all expectation. The cow manure was removed in no time. Yet that wasn’t the end of the problems. The pathogenic dung flies remained. In their determination not to make any mistakes this time, the Australians had made the mistake of subjecting the beetle to a rigorous quarantine before being imported. So not only were the unwelcome germs left in Africa, but so were the mites that live on dung beetles. And it was these very mites, which are transported by dung beetles from cow pat to cow pat, that control the spread of dung flies best by eating their eggs. The Australians’ next step, of course, was to import cow dung beetle mites. Don’t ever get the idea that they’re crazy down under.
Not even close to having your fill?
The Story of Shit is out now at all good bookshops, via the Text website (Free postage!) and as an ebook.