In Marin / currents
12 QUESTIONS FOR
Mary roach, author of Packing for Mars, this year’s choice for One Book One
Marin, seems to have made a career of exploring topics most of us pretend to
ignore. One of her first published works, on elephant warts for the
San Francisco Zoo’s newsletter, paved the way for an illustrious
and still-thriving writing career that includes magazine work,
public speaking, blog postings and, of course, authoring best-selling books.
all but one of the latter have one-word titles: Stiff, about cadavers; Bonk, about
sex labs; Spook, on science and the afterlife, and her fifth book, Gulp, on the
alimentary canal, which hits bookstores this month. You can see her read in
person at Notes & Words, a literary fundraiser benefiting Children’s Hospital
of Oakland, at Oakland’s Fox Theater on May 18. roach lives in the East Bay
with her husband, Ed rachles. We caught up with her on this side of the bay
as she was heading to Terrapin Crossroads for dinner with friends. MIMI TO WLE
1Did you study journalism or science? Nope, i watched a lot of television. i could tell you the
nightly lineup on all three networks. Saturday night,
8: 30, CBS, was Mary Tyler Moore — and i’m pretty
sure i could still sing the theme songs to Rhoda,
Maude and Phyllis.
2Muse? Caffeine. Good coffee.
3If you don’t have any good coffee? i get some.
4What grosses you out? mucoid strands from okra in gumbo, some types of heavy cotton
fabric give me the heebie-jeebies, and shows on
plastic surgery. t hat’s about it.
5Why wasn’t Packing for Mars given a one- word title? We wanted it to suggest the
human side of space travel, and “floaters” was as
close as we got before giving up.
9What do you with the extra? i like to put tidbits on t witter that don’t make it into a story, but luckily i have a short memory and i don’t dwell on what
gets cut — three days later i never knew it existed.
10Whom do you follow on Twitter? it’s fun to see what maria popova posts and
i also follow companies like Kotex and the o hio
Hog Farmers association — you never know what
gems they might tweet.
11Worst assignments? i pitched being an ergonomic airplane seat tester many years
ago. i tend to be overoptimistic; i thought it might
be fascinating and funny. o nce i got the assignment, i realized it was sitting for eight hours and
filling out a questionnaire on how i felt. And then, i
still had to write an interesting article.
12Next book? Anything ending in k or z — Fizz, Spaz, Buzz, Sink, Grok. M
6Has anyone made a movie from one of your books? t he writers from Family Guy wrote a
pilot based on Stiff; it was exciting, even though it
wasn’t picked up.
ONE BOOK ONE MARIN
7Where you surprised a book on cadavers became a best seller? Yes.
8You travel all over the world for your esearch; how much do you actually use?
Ninety percent of what i report on i never use.
• April 11 Corte madera Library, 10 a.m.–noon
• April 12 Civic Center Library, noon, with Carol Benet
• April 16 Fairfax Library, 7 p.m.
• April 24 Novato Library, 7 p.m.
• June 5 margaret t odd Senior Center, 7 p.m.
t im por t er