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Tucson Weekly Flushed With Anticipation

Two Recent Books Tell Top Toilet Tales.

By James DiGiovanna

The Porcelain God: A Social History of the Toilet, by Julie L. Horan (Carol Publishing Group). Paper, $17.95.

Temples of Convenience and Chambers of Delight, by Lucinda Lambton (St. Martin's Press). Cloth, $24.95

AUGUST 4, 1997:  THESE TWO RECENTLY published books on that most private of rooms supplement each other nicely. Temples of Convenience is richly illustrated, with sumptuously reproduced photographs of historical toilets. One photo shows a haunting fog hanging over the Great Baths of Bath, a Roman-built latrine and sauna. In another, beautiful early 20th-century toilets, with their Art Deco tiling, are set against 17th-century chamber pots delicately carved in mahogany. The text is little more than captions, but each provides the historical context for these unusual and often oddly attractive waste disposal systems.

The Porcelain God lacks Temples' photography, but makes up for it with an amusing anecdotal history of defecation and urination. Quotes from Isaiah ("My bowels shall sound like an harp") mingle with informative tidbits such as the fact that "No. 1" and "No. 2" carry the same significance in Chinese as in English, or that Henry IV had to forbid his nobles from relieving themselves in the corners of his palace. Seems things were getting a bit gamey.

Together, these two books provide a much-needed pictorial and verbal history of a topic that's received too little academic attention to date.


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