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Debra Hamel is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.


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THE BATTLE OF ARGINUSAE :
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KILLING ERATOSTHENES:
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READING HERODOTUS:
A GUIDED TOUR THROUGH THE WILD BOARS, DANCING SUITORS, AND CRAZY TYRANTS OF THE HISTORY
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THE MUTILATION OF THE HERMS:
UNPACKING AN ANCIENT MYSTERY
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TRYING NEAIRA:
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SOCRATES AT WAR:
THE MILITARY HEROICS OF AN ICONIC INTELLECTUAL
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ANCIENT GREEKS IN DRAG:
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IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY TWEET:
FIVE HUNDRED 1ST LINES IN 140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
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PRISONERS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
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Nohain, Jean: Le Petomane

  Amazon  

2 stars

During a career that spanned more than twenty years, Frenchman Joseph Pujol--Le Petomane--captivated fin-de-siecle Parisian audiences and brought international crowds to tears of laughter with his unusual performances. Alone on stage and elegantly attired, Pujol demonstrated his peculiar ability to take in copious quantities of air or water at will through his rectum and to expel either when convenient, a skill which allowed him to perform a number of spectacular feats. Pujol used his disciplined flatulence, for example, to blow out candles (from a distance of 12 inches) or to shoot jets of water--sucked in immediately beforehand--as far as four or five yards. He could imitate various animals with his emissions and could play recognizable tunes. (A newspaper of the day reports: "In reality he produced only four notes, the do, mi, sol, and do of the octave. I cannot guarantee that each of these notes was tonally true.") And in a coup de grace that would have left Howard Stern screaming for more, Le Petomane would insert a rubber hose into his anus and, thrusting a cigarette into the hose's free end, would enjoy a rectal smoke, his sphincter alternately breathing in and exhaling. (Pujol played the flute using the same apparatus.)

In his very brief (95 pages in my edition, with photographs) biography, author Jean Nohain tells the bizarre story of Le Petomane, an evidently kindly baker, and a father of ten, who was determined to use his talent for flatulence for good. It is an arresting story, of course, but there is unfortunately much to fault in the writing and translation into English of the book itself: References that demand explanation (caf' conc', Kam-Hill) but go unremarked, an off-putting introductory chapter that relies almost exclusively on quoted material, a general lack of cohesion throughout. But if you do read Le Petomane you will very likely never forget it, and you will almost certainly mention it to at least one friend--which is more than can be said about many better books.

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