Teaser Tuesday, The Body, A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson

Beware, the squeamish!

This teaser contains (written) images of the inside of, well, us! One of my brief forays into non-fiction and popular science. But, as an erstwhile barrister who has on occasion been instructed to witness a post mortem, this particular extract seems very accurately described.

“Feel this,” Dr. Ben Ollivere is saying to me. We are in the dissecting room at the University of Nottingham Medical School in England, and he is directing my attention to a piece of detached tubing in the upper chest of a male body. The tube has been sliced through, evidently for demonstration purposes. Ben instructs me to stick my gloved finger into its interior and feel it. It is stiff, like uncooked pasta—like a cannelloni shell. I have no idea what it is.

“The aorta,” Ben says with what seems like pride.

I am frankly amazed. “So that’s the heart?” I say, indicating the shapeless lump beside it.

Ben nods. “And the liver, pancreas, kidneys, spleen,” he says, pointing out the other organs of the abdomen in turn, sometimes nudging one aside to expose another behind or beneath it. They are not fixed and hard like the plastic teaching models, but move about easily. I am vaguely reminded of water balloons. There is a lot of other stuff in there, too—threaded blood vessels and nerves and tendons, and lots and lots of intestines, all of it just kind of tipped in, as if this poor, anonymous, former person had had to pack himself in a hurry. It was impossible to visualize how any of this disordered interior could ever have conducted the tasks that would allow the very inert body before us to sit up and think and laugh and live.

“As if this poor, anonymous, former person had had to pack himself in a hurry “. What a deliciously pertinent simile!

And, as always with Bryson the humanity shines through this extract: however much we increase our understanding of the mechanics of the body, we can never truly understand why and how we can live!

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