Book Review: Midas Dekkers’ The Story Of Shit is a cheeky look at our toilet habits

We all do it. But most of us don’t talk about it. What I’m writing about is defecation or shitting. Dutch biologist, Midas Dekkers knows all about this. He has put together his own utterly unique, bizarre and interesting take on this universal-yet-taboo topic.

Dekkers is no stranger to writing about left-field and contentious subjects. He has previously penned a book about bestiality and another on redheads, to name just two. With The Story Of Shit, he turns his sights on the process of digestion and defecation just as Giulia Enders did in her book, Gut. Dekkers’ work differs though, because he also uses rather irreverent humour to pen different chapters on a range of topics. It means the final product includes illustrations alongside something that is part cultural study, part social history, and part biology lesson with some general anecdotes thrown in for good measure.

In writing this book, Dekkers argues that shitting is one of society’s last taboos. He says that because we are obsessed with hygiene we disappear off into our own isolated toilet, complete the deed and then return to what we were doing, often pretending that nothing actually happened. Dekkers is very passionate about this subject, even going so far as to wax lyrical about the shape, size and consistency of our bowel motions. He believes – sometimes too vehemently – that we should revel in our excrement because he thinks the act of defecation can be a satisfying experience- one that – brace yourself – can even be up there with the act of cooking or food preparation, for instance.

In this volume, Dekkers cheekily looks into the history of the toilet and sanitation as well as throwing in some intriguing tid-bits and diversions. Did you know, for example, that the CIA tried using transmitters disguised as tiger turds to spy on the Viet Cong? Were you aware that humans don’t learn the feeling of disgust until they are three years old and that this is why we are easier to toilet train at this particular age? Did you know that up to ten per cent of our food goes straight into our waste products rather than being converted into energy for our bodies?

In The Story of Shit Dekkers is an enthusiastic proponent of crap. He weaves together a number of different themes and anecdotes into a rather digestible form. Some of these articles are simplistic, others are rooted in historic and scientific fact and there are times where some things may be dismissed by the reader as being little more than toilet humour or in fact, shit. This book is certainly not for the squeamish or the easily offended. But for those who have ever stood back, looked in the bowl and wanted to know more about something that happens so often and is so rarely discussed, then Midas Dekkers’ book certainly provides ample opportunity for these topics and taboos to get an airing.

The Story Of Shit by Midas Dekkers is available now through Text Publishing.