Because quite simply how could it not be, one of our August books of the month is The Story of Shit – a nonfiction study of yes, you guessed it. Shit. Shit is a big deal – only yesterday Wired published an article entitled ‘The long, noble and stinky quest to make human shit useful.’ Hmm.
Yes shit, it would seem, remains a perennially pertinent topic… but not one that most people are wont to talk about. Or write about for that matter: poo is a subject mostly confined to joke books and children’s books (in which it features prominently!).
Shit. Crap. Dung, Poo. Turd. Stool. Excrement. Doo-doo. BM. Shite. Poop. Faeces. Number Two. Deuce. Manure. Waste. Arse biscuit. Loaf. Caca. Doodie. Blivet. Merde. Scat. Scheisse. So many words, all to make up for the fact we still find it a largely unspeakable subject.
Midas Dekkers, the Dutch biologist behind The Story of Shit, wants to change that. Dekkers – who has previously written books on death and decay and bestiality – presents this 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 itself and toilet etiquette from around the world.
Despite the apparently endless supply of books on every conceivable aspect of health it is perhaps surprising that nothing like The Story of Shit has been written previously. Diet, fitness and health have never been bigger topics than they are now and our bowel movements are intrinsically linked to all these things:
“We owe our excrement more respect than we normally show. What we toss out is not worthless rubbish but a valuable product of intricate, highly synchronised processes. Not only is shit the keystone of the circle of life, but it’s also an object of lust, a means of creative expression, and a vehicle for communicating love between humans or between man and animal. Shit is the universal lubricant of the entire life mechanism; shit keeps the whole thing going.”
This is a book full of irreverent humour (how could it not be?!) but it is also a compelling, refreshing, entertaining and illuminating look at this still taboo subject. Crammed with fascinating facts and insights, The Story of Shit questions our reticence to talk about this integral bodily function – something which is as vital to us as breathing, sleeping and eating – but also our disinclination to see it as something enriching, can be creative and even enjoyable.
Published at the end of this month in the UK, the Australian edition has already been released to high praise from many leading outlets:
‘A masterful writing style that is not only unique in biology but without equal in the whole of Dutch literature. The Story of Shit shows Dekkers once again to be in possession of a golden pen.’
– New Scientist
‘[A] remarkable foray into every aspect of diet, digestion and defecation… This is a fascinating, milestone work that should run out of bookshops like
shit off a hot shovel.’
‘A funny but earnest investigation – part social history, biology lesson and cultural study – that takes Chaucerian delight in the subject.’
– Sydney Morning Herald
‘The Story of Shit is entertaining, amusing, educational and revealing…
Sitting on the toilet will never be the same.’
‘A fascinating, very funny look at something common to us all.’
– Daily Telegraph
‘[An] utterly unique, bizarre and interesting take on this universal-yet-taboo topic… Dekkers is an enthusiastic proponent of crap.’
– AU Review
‘Intestinal fortitude required. Prudes beware.’
– North & South
‘Packed with humour… The Story of Shit is an enjoyable romp through culture, science, and history.’
– Australian Book Review
The Story of Shit is published by Text Publishing Company on 30 August
(9781925355178, p/b, £12.99)