But I like to think that every day is World Toilet Day. And in that spirit, everybody but the most coprophobic should appreciate the fact that The Big Necessity, in the author’s aim to investigate The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters, offers a far-reaching, cohesive, and well-considered exploration, with its dry sense of humor also evidenced in the chapter titles, such as “The Battle of Biosolids: Bad Smell, Big Tomatoes,” and “A Public Necessity: Frightening the Horses.” George also includes detailed endnotes that expands on many areas, while Further Reading consists of such intriguing titles as Sitting Pretty, An Uninhibited History of the Toilet, and The Anatomy of Disgust.
If photographs for documentation purposes could be said to be deadpan, the plain-Jane black-and-whites that head up each chapter make the case: there’s no way to make coffee-table arty, say, the panorama centered on the street sign “Solids Rd.” at the Blue Plains wastewater treatment in Washington, D.C., so why try? And I’m not sure I want to ponder the transgressions perpetrated by offenders who constitute the austere photo of the “Wall of shame, Kalyani, India” mug shots that introduce Chapter 8, “Open Defecation-Free India: Husband; Must Have Toilet.”
In any case, another thing these lavatory-less miscreants missed out on is Rose George’s gratitude as she thanks, in the Acknowledgments “everyone who shared their stories and showed me their latrines with no embarrassment and impressive pride.” That should put them to shame.