Introductions: Mary Roach
May 21, 2021
By Rebecca Hoogs, SAL Interim Executive Director
It is such a delight to introduce Mary Roach to you tonight. Mary is the author of books like Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, and Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War, all books that are about human beings as much as they are about the human body. This fall she will turn her gaze to the world of animal-human interactions when she publishes Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law.
I’ve been thinking a lot about values—my personal values, the values of SAL, and how our values might shift as we emerge from the pandemic. Two of my enduring values are curiosity and laughter, two values that Mary Roach embodies to a ‘T’. She brings an endlessly curious mind and a cracking sense of humor to everything she writes—delighting us beyond taboo, sparking us to peak beyond the squeamish. She brings a scientist’s mind to the unseemly, a biographer’s talent to the biological.
In Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal, Roach writes, “I think it’s fair to say that some degree of obsession is a requisite for good science, and certainly for scientific breakthrough.” I think it’s fair to say that some degree of obsession is requisite for good writing, and we have been so lucky to get to follow Mary Roach’s obsessions over the years in her many books and tonight, as she, in the name of curiosity and a good gut laugh, leads our minds beyond where we might otherwise let them go.
Mary Roach was in conversation with Deborah Blum on May 9, 2021 as part of our 2020/21 Literary Arts Series; SAL Interim Executive Director Rebecca Hoogs delivered this introduction.