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- Page count
I never thought I would enjoy a book about plumbing so much. Perhaps Flushed: How the Plumber Saved Civilization should have been subtitled Adventures in Shit.
As I sat, appropriately, on the porcelain throne to read this, Carter set the perfect introductory tone. Over his wife's objections, he invited a friend over to defecate in his new high-tech toilet, thus introducing the reader to his obsession with the subject matter.
If you are looking for a technical or scholarly work on plumbing, this book is not for you. But if you've ever wondered how clean water gets to you, where it goes after you flush the toilet, or what people did before they had these conveniences, then you might want to crack open Flushed.
Carter is no wordsmith, but his book is extremely enjoyable. He gives us a good mix of history and not-too-technical detail with personal anecdote, a winning combination.
He says he got interested in the subject when he was tinkering in his basement and made discoveries about the pipes leading into and out of his home. He then began reading up on the subject. We're told about ancient systems of water delivery and waste disposal, going back to India and eventually leading to Rome; about how sewer systems in London and elsewhere came into existence and solved some unspeakably bad problems; about the process that drives change in the industry, including the history of the toilet and highlighting the cleanup of Boston Harbor; about training and responsibilities of a modern plumber in America; and about developments in and the potential future of waste disposal.
But Carter is not satisfied in reading about the subject or giving the reader a dry academic account. He wants to know how the Romans put together their aqueducts, so he builds himself a lead pipe using only techniques that would have been available then, and he crawls around on his hands and knees studying lead pipes in Bath. He wades through knee-deep shit in the sewers of East London and tours the facilities at Deer Island in Boston Harbor so that he can see first hand how major cities deal with their sewage problems. He makes house calls with plumbers in his home town, and he flies to India to learn about the plight of the Untouchables and what some important people are doing to relieve the situation.
Flushed is filled with fascinating information and just the right touch of irreverence befitting the subject matter. I would highly recommend it to anyone, taboos be damned, particularly as it deals head on with something that concerns us all intimately.