Mandi’s Reads: Theories of Poop and Other Magic
I have theories about life. Theories, you hear me! My main theory is that deep down everyone wants to talk about their poop. How do I know this? In college I worked for a gastroenterologist. I filed, handled insurance payments and made appointments. In no way was I ever a gastroenterologist. I never went to poop chute medical school. I was not and am not qualified to make diagnoses. However, that has never stopped people from talking to me about their poop. I’m not talking patients either. Strangers in an elevator, new co-workers, dates… they all give me the same reaction when they hear I worked for a gastroenterologist. Their faces freeze and their lips lock together as if they are trying to dam their words. Then comes a moment of relaxation, hope and gratitude, and descriptors of their bowel movements come flying out. They speak to me of frequency, color, consistency, nut content. And I help them the best I can.
Why do people like to talk about their poop? It says a lot about our desire to connect with others, to make ourselves vulnerable. What could make us more vulnerable and exposed than to talk about the smelliest thing our body produces? I feel quite honored that friends, family and strangers ask me my thoughts on their poop. It shows they trust me, that they sense something in me that makes them want to reach out, that I won’t mock them (too much), and that they know I can laugh with them (never at them) about life. I am proud to be people’s go-to poop expert. If that is the only reason I am on this planet, then I’m OK with that. Plus, there is something delightfully Chaucerian in talking about poop and farts.
So here are a couple of silly book recommendations from the world’s foremost excrement counselor:
I have been spending a lot of time reading non-fiction lately (and you know how I feel about non-fiction). I have been reading feminist treatises (I’m a practicing feminist, didn’t ya know?) and Indigenous history and Indigenous women’s rights and intersectional feminist theory. All of this non-fiction is inspiring and thought-provoking and challenging to all sorts of paradigms. But every healthy meal requires a dessert, and so I have been reading a lot of frothy fiction after my nutritious non-fiction.
The House at the End of Hope Street
By: Menna van Praag
The House at the End of Hope Street is one such frothy concoction. Women throughout history have sought respite at the house when they have reached the end of their hope (OMG get it? The title… it’s… wordplay!). Doris Lessing (my least favorite big effin’ deal author ever) wrote The Golden Notebook there. George Eliot was inspired to write Middlemarch there. Florence Nightingale stayed there right before she shipped out to Crimea. The house at the end of Hope Street has a magical effect on the women who are drawn there, women of genius and love who need a break from the demands of the world.
Yes, the house, which has a personality of its own, is a place of magic and healing, but it faces perhaps its greatest challenge in Alba, a nineteen-year-old history prodigy with magic of her own; Carmen, a beautiful and sensual woman whose exterior hides a broken and painful past; and Greer, a middle-aged actress who has failed at her career and at love. Guarding all of them is Peggy, the 82-year-old matron of the house, who has just received a note from ghosts informing her this is her last year on earth.
This is a charming, whimsical book, perfect for fall. And fall, as everyone knows, is the most magical time of year.
Reads well with: Jim Dooley and a pumpkin spice latte
The Peach Keeper
By: Sarah Addison Allen
Sarah Addison Allen writes adorable, charming (again with the charming, Mandi?), magical (OMFG Mandi…if you say “magical” one more time!) books. This book is set in a charming (now you’re just messing with us) small town called Walls of Water, so named for the nearby waterfalls that fill the town with a magical (just stop already) mist. In this town, every bird is trying to tell you something, every smell tells you something about a person’s secrets, and ghosts are found at the roots of a peach tree. There are cantrips and mysteries and sexytimes and friendship and just a dash of romance as two women piece together a murder mystery from a time when their grandmothers were teenagers.
I am one of those who believes in pumpkin-flavored everything in fall. I also believe in magic-tinged everything for fall, and this book helped to fill my magic quota.
Reads well with: Helen Jane Long and Pumpkin Dream Cake with Cinnamon Maple Frosting
Feel free to tweet @MandiHarris any questions you have about your poop.