26 December 2011

Post 462: That's Disgusting

That's Disgusting by Rachel Herz. ISBN: 978039307647 (eGalley - publishes January 23, 2012).

Interesting choice of cover design, especially if you've read this book and realize what that face subconsciously signals. Strangely, this was not the original cover, which had a cute tiny snail creeping along on top of the black text box. Snails weren't heavily mentioned in the book, but it was a much more appealing cover. Anyway, makes you wonder who vets these and whether Herz had any say in it. Honestly, you can almost smell or imagine whatever it is that made this lady make the "poopy" face.

While I was reading this, I kept thinking about moments where someone else was disgusted and I wasn't. One of the more interesting ones was when I was volunteering for an Air Force closed channel news and media center. During this period, they took footage from an airplane crash. I happened to be in the room eating lunch while they were reviewing the footage. I was casually watching the edits when they realized I was in the room. Not only were they shocked that I was still there, but that I was also chowing down on a chicken sandwich. My tender age of about twelve also shocked them. In any case, I was chased out of the editing room by some very perturbed and squicked adults.

So why wasn't I grossed out enough to at least stop eating while I was watching this footage? Am I morally depraved because I was capable of looking at carnage without being grossed out? Did I "like" this kind of footage or in some way find it appealing?

The answer to the last two questions is no. I did not enjoy watching the footage, but neither did it bother me. For one thing, I was at an age where death did not seem applicable to me. I knew I would die some day, but that day seemed impossibly far away to my twelve year old self. According to Herz, being reminded of how vulnerable we are to death and/or bodily harm is something that can cause disgust. However, the human bodies that I saw on the screen did not look like bodies to me any more than mummies look like human bodies. Certainly there is a resemblance, but there was little recognizably human left to the remains. Had I been able to make out facial features, or had there been a perfectly untouched body part among the charred flesh I may not have been able to stomach the sight.

Finally, I believe my curiosity was raised more than my feelings of disgust. This was the first time I had seen real dead people. This sounds cold and callous on my part, but in some ways this is the reality of human beings. We are interested in things we haven't seen or experienced before, and we are likely to explore them, even at that risk of offending someone else. Had this been a plane full of people I knew, I might have felt differently, but they were all strangers, and there was not much I could offer to them other than prayers and the hope that their wishes regarding burial were both possible and fulfilled.

More recently however, I was exposed to a house that had been hoarded. That thoroughly disgusted me because the exposure was more direct. I felt disgusted being in the house, or even thinking about being in the house. Yet, I can watch an episode of Hoarders with a sort of fascination and only minor triggers of "yuck." It is interesting that things that we would find disgusting when faced with them directly are less disgusting when viewed from a distance or under other circumstances.

My review can be found on Goodreads.
LibsNote: Advance Reader Copy provided by Netgalley.

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