» » The Porcelain God: A Social History of the Toilet
The Porcelain God: A Social History of the Toilet by L. Julie Horn
ISBN: 0806519479
ISBN13: 978-0806519470
Author: L. Julie Horn
Book title: The Porcelain God: A Social History of the Toilet
Other Formats: rtf lrf mbr lit
Pages: 240 pages
Publisher: Citadel; First Edition edition (June 1, 2000)
Language: English
Size PDF version: 1974 kb
Size ePub version: 1140 kb
Size fb2 version: 1912 kb
Category: Americas

Traces the history of the toilet, from the third millennium B.C., evolving over 5,000 years into the high-tech twentieth-century toilets of the Japanese

Books reviews
Dammy
I liked the book because it is a non-pedantic, irreverent, look at something that we all use daily, and the diverse attitudes of users. Ms. Horn makes it clear that during most of recorded history humans had to tolerate sanitary conditions that we would find repellent today.

Buy this book if you are not interested in the intricacies of toilet engineering, but do want to better understand how the modern sanitary facilities of today came about. I would have liked more information on wall-hung toilets, water-conserving technology, etc., but that would require a different kind of book, less accessible to the general public and of more interest to technically-focused readers.
Runehammer
Funny and concise, this book is a masterpiece :-) It's so informative that years after I had read it I still cite it here and there.
Ionzar
very entertaining read
Mojar
Very informative but not nearly as titillating as I would have thought. I would suggest Poop Culture way above this book. That said, it's good info for writing papers or purely to glean facts from.
Azago
A delightfully quirky and informative read. The ultimate dissertation on the sociology of elimination. Ideal bathroom reading-no washroom should be without a copy of this book!
IGOT
Awesome book. Every household with a bathroom where there's a reader who visits... Well, this is a perfect book to add to your decor, an item to be used when paying a visit to the WC. A friend of mine loaned this book to me back when it was first published. Julie L. Horan was a flight attendant who flew all over the world. Of course, where ever she went, there were toilets there to use. Thus, began her curiosity. Book is full of interesting tidbits about this place and that, times being the ancient and the modern.

"Porcelain God" has lots of minute details that you'll really want to know about one of our most frequently used tools. Without the toilet in the house, our backyards would be quite unsightly and unsanitary. In fact, I've always wondered how one can be allowed to build something without a toilet, a sewer and a way for it to be composted... Well, thus, we have nuclear power plants, but then that's another whole tale, did you get it? No storage for the waste... Back to the "The Porcelain God: A Social History of the Toilet".

Believe me, if you've never been curious about how we got toilets, then you're not really a deep thinker. This book has all the answers to your questions, presented in an entertaining fashion and told by a woman who just couldn't seem to get enough information about her subject.

Here's one thing that book did to me: It made me begin to shut the lid on my toilet after every use. I tell people it's because in an earthquake I don't want all the items above the toilet on a shelf to fall into the tank, actually true. If things come back to life after the quake, the last thing you want to be doing is shopping for a toilet with everyone else. No, it's the info she gives you about how high the water rises up above and how long that continues after you've flushed the toilet. Not something I'd ever pondered before her book.

The two plus two equals four here is: If you allow the water spray from the toilet to come back into your room, then how sanitary is the air in your bathroom? Hmmm... something to ponder... deeply... Yes, I'll recommend this book to every one. In fact, I just purchased a copy of this book for a family member who I know is about to do some travels. Thought it would be a good time to begin learning about the toilets of the world... and what the water spray really means to them.

I meant to mention that this book is one of my favorite history books. The writer has a clear style with humorous overtones ~ after all, look at her chosen subject. She takes you all over the world and all through the ages in an entertaining fashion. So, if you're looking for a good read with real facts presented in an easy to read format, here's a book you should not pass up.
Zavevidi
It's hard reviewing a book published in 1996 - you have to cast your mind back to what was known about the subject at that time. But this book was published 20 years after the revival of a global interest in sanitation, and yet manages to ignore it. The revival was launched by World Bank research in 1976-78 (admittedly perhaps not the first place one would think of as being concerned with sanitation) which showed that there were many alternatives to conventional sewerage that were just as effective in protecting public health and that were far more affordable. At that time 40 per cent of the water used by the typical US household was used only for flushing the toilet, so this had important policy implications when trying to help the 2 billion people who did not have sanitation (1 billion people of whom did not have water supply either). The World Bank and the United Nations Development Program set up a Water and Sanitation Program within the World Bank, which continues to this day, and the UN declared the 1980s its Water Supply and Sanitation Decade, during which countries all around the world, with the assistance of many aid agencies, tried to set goals for improving services to their people. So at last sanitation became a respectable subject for serious professionals to worry about (something that is not well conveyed by the "nudge, nudge, wink, wink" rather arch style of the book).

So what's this to do with a review? Simply that the research and follow-up found so many good solutions that the author doesn't seem aware of. For example, the Ventilated Improved Pit (VIP) latrine, developed in Zimbabwe and now common all over Africa. It's familiar here in National Forests and Parks - except that the special features of the design (developed after sophisticated investigations by organizations such as the UK Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, which make it permanent and odor- and insect-free) have often been omitted! For Asia the Pour Flush Toilet, hand-flushed using only one or two liters of water, enabled almost any homeowner to have a totally sanitary toilet - another product of careful research, not only in the field but in hydraulic laboratories in UK, Sweden and Brazil. Latin America modified Western toilets to produce models that could be flushed by hand using very little water - that's important when every drop has to be carried home after long waits at public faucets. Latin America also adopted various forms of simplified sewerage - ironically developed in the US but generally unknown to conventional engineers - letting communities afford the same types of household installations as in the West. And of course there are all sorts of variants: composting toilets, toilets built out over fish ponds so that passing travelers can contribute to the household economy (the author illustrates one, but doesn't seem to get the point), Yemeni "long-drop" VIPs built at roof level, far better septic tanks, and so on.

What I've said may not seem to relate much to the book's sub-title "A Social History of the Toilet". But an important part of the original World Bank's research, something that has been emphasized strongly in all subsequent programs, is the need to find out the social setting of sanitation: what people believe about sanitation and what technical alternatives are likely to be regarded as improvements and so are likely to be successful. Toilet part of the house or separate from it? Orientation (feng shui and religious restrictions)? Gender separation? Sharing with other older family members? Sanitation blocks for extended families? Cleaning materials - water, corncobs or paper? Sitting or squatting? Separation of urine for use on the vegetable garden? Use of humus (digested and hence safe excreta) on crops? Toilet training of children (often ignored, although they are major sources of pathogens)? Cultural restrictions on who may clean, maintain or empty toilets? And so on. It's a job for anthropologists, a thought which makes engineers uncomfortable!

So perhaps the book ought to have reflected more deeply about why the US seems obsessed with what is essentially a Victorian technology (and not a very good one at that, as we face up to water scarcity - it was recently reported that USAID is still insisting on waterborne sewerage in earthquake-torn Haiti, even though many people don't have houses, let alone water supply...). Why stay with a solution which wastes so much water (and pollutes so many watercourses)? Perhaps that's a topic for psychology, but surely a social history could profitably explore it?
What a fun book. A fascinating history of the toilet,with enough humor to keep you turning the pages as fast as possible. I think it is a great gift idea for the peron who has everything. A must for every bathroom
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