Unit 10: GRUNT Ch. 11-14

Softball for this week: Is Mary Roach a successful scientific writer?  Why or why not?

Write your response in a comment to this page.

20 thoughts on “Unit 10: GRUNT Ch. 11-14

  1. James W.

    There are several reasons within “Grunt” that stand out to me as proof of Roach’s success as a scientific writer. The largest one being her willingness to show that she isn’t a subject matter expert. It is her willingness to make herself the but of the joke, the fact that she is willing to point out her gaps in knowledge, create a more relatable writer for the readers. Specifically for myself, having been in the army for a while, it is very apparent when someone without the background use military lingo. Watching the first YouTube videos linked with our writing assignments, I was worried that Roach was going to try and speak the military lingo. Not only was I relieved to find this wasn’t the case, but refreshed by her amusement with some of the phrases that are used within today’s military, or within the facilities doing research.

    Roach takes issues that are emotionally, or technically complicated and makes them approachable. Describing them in a way that assumes no prior knowledge on the subject. While describing the training that military medical personnel go through to inoculate them to the stresses and horrors of battlefield wounds, Roach is able to describe gruesome situations without putting the reader off. Again, when describing the accident of four divers who were tragically killed during an accidental “explosive decompression,” she remarks seeing a picture of a man who’s brain had burst out through the top of his head, but focuses on the odd way his mustache seams askew. Her ability to bring people into situations without putting them off sets her apart. Any writer can present statistics and information, but doing it in a way that is keeps the readers wanting more is the real skill.

  2. Scott Chaddon Jr

    After reading through Grunt, I can easily see why Mary Roach is seen as such an acclaimed science writer. She holds onto the readers’ attention. She makes each chapter memorable and piques the interest of her readers enough to inspire them to take a more in-depth look into the sciences.
    One of the most common issues that I feel many scientific writers face is that there are few people (at least in my experience) that actively try and learn about the sciences, and there seem to be even fewer that feel any sort of bond or connection to them. Many of the people I know claim to either not be interested in or not have the time to read scholarly, scientific, or educational articles. These people would rather read a science fiction or fantasy novel because it is “a more interesting read.” Mary Roach tells Grunt like a story. Throughout the book, she is recounting her own experiences. She tries to reach out to the reader, to connect with them while also connecting with the people that she is interviewing. In turn, this connects the reader to the scientists and researchers, allowing us to catch a hint of their passion and excitement and worries, giving us a glimpse of who they are and why they put so much into their work. Mary Roach makes her book a personal journey, taking the reader along with her as she learns and discovers new things, some of it odd, but all of it interesting.
    Mary’s sense of humor also adds quite a bit to the readers’ experience. It gives a bit of flavor to the otherwise blander and more technical sections of her writing. This helps the reader to better recall information that might otherwise get glossed over, all due to the little chuckle that was inspired by a small quip or wisecrack.
    Overall I feel that Mary Roach succeeds as a scientific writer, not necessarily for the information that she is sharing with the readers, but for the way in which she presents it.

    1. Kimberly Ulery

      I feel the way she presented it was a huge aspect to her success as a scientific writer. The delivery of the story, being her own personal experiences, made it much more interesting and easy to read/get into, because of this approach taken. I liked how she included the specific people she dealt with in each dialogue, and presented their quotes and opinions on the matters she was researching into. Altogether this made the book fun and educational, allowing her to be successful as a scientific writer.

  3. Ryan Hoskins-Chaddon

    While I don’t appreciate Mary’s sense of humor as much as some others, I would still say that she is a successful scientific writer. She relayed the information that she was trying to get across very well and did so in a way that bridged the gap between the scientifically literate and the scientifically illiterate. The material was far from dry as one might expect from more traditional sources and was very informative not only in the science involved but also how it interacted with soldiers on a personal level. She relates conversations, interactions, and relationships that she developed alongside of the technical aspect of the subject and it created a more relatable and comfortable medium for her audience. After all, everybody knows that any interaction, including fact finding interactions, is more than just the information gathered in the end. There are detours, joking, unrelated topics, and much more on the road to a research writer’s goal, and Mary showed that she was very proficient in showing as much.
    The topics she chose were also a point of unexpected interest. I often found myself wondering how exactly she decided to write on topics such as penis transplants and diarrhea, especially when other topics such as flame resistance clothing and distressed submarines are the ones that most people would think to be more standard fare in a book like Grunt. Each unexpected chapter subject was interesting and oddly entertaining and shows that she knows how to ease up on the more hardcore science in order to keep her intended audience. The book kept my interest even when I was struggling to understand her sense of humor, or at least relate to it. It was definitely a book that achieved it’s goal.

  4. Kimberly Ulery

    Mary Roach is a successful scientific writer. I believe this because she took a subject that was not very interesting to me, and turned it interesting. It was also educational in many ways, teaching me many different parts of science and history that I did not know about. One I found particularly interesting is that if a mans fertility is affected by being damaged in the war, it is the responsibility of the VA to provide in vitro fertilization for those soldiers left sterile. I did not know this and find it quite amazing. I also learned much about the science behind the reconstruction and what the goals are of the surgeons when it comes to this specific appendage that is so futile to the quality of life of any solider. She also discussed another subject, the diarrhea among soldiers due to unsafe food conditions and latrines close to the food source as well. Flies being mechanical vectors for disease, that they then spread to food simply by landing on infected feces, and then landing on food that was consumed by soldiers. This simple transport was enough to make many soldiers sick, as well as kill them due to the severity of some of the diseases spread.

    Mary really brought light to subjects I typically found no interest in. Some of the subjects were still hard to get into, even with her humorous approach, but it still allowed me to learn more about the topic than I would have if there wasn’t humor attached. The book was very educational, and I think Mary was successful in her approach and delivery of the book Grunt.

  5. Christian Williams

    I think she is definitely successful as a science writer because I actually enjoyed reading “Grunt”, and typically I haven’t enjoyed many assigned readings over the years. To me, that makes her successful. But what makes her successful in a broad sense is that nothing goes over a readers head. She explores science, and in the case of “Grunt” the science of war, not from a super technical background, but one of pure curiosity. She doesn’t try to wow you by being the smartest person in the room, but instead seemingly acts like a tour guide. She goes on an adventure and shows really interesting bits and facts to her audience. It almost seems like she’s a friend who found something interesting and just wants to show you what it is and what she thinks about it. Nobody really wants to sit and just read technical jargon about a subject, and with Mary Roach, you don’t have to. She also takes something that is very politically charged, the act of making war, and presents it well without being too far on either side of the spectrum in terms of supporting it or being against. It exists, but not to the point where I think it is going to push away readers. In a world where war is being further and further divorced from the mind of the general public, I think Roach makes her writing about it very relatable. All that is why I think Mary Roach has found success as a science writer.

    1. Scott Chaddon Jr

      I definitely liked the fact that she made it about the facts over the politics as well. She never stated a blatant (or at least not a noticeable) opinion about war itself, just showed the progression of military technology and the difficulties faced. I think comparing her to a Tour Guide is spot on as well, it definitely felt like she was just leading the reader through her discoveries, giving the facts, but making it fun.

  6. Marissa King

    Mary Roach is a successful scientific writer for many reasons. She has no degree in science, but she discovers all of this stuff with the audience at the same time. She easily makes gory parts that are hard to read bearable because she takes into consideration all ages of the audience. When reading Grunt, you learn so many new things about the military or what science has to do with helping them. She is a great writer because you get hooked immediately. Her descriptive words put images into my head and makes it feel so much more real and that is why I like her. She made the whole story very memorable and catches everyone’s eye. Everything point she was trying to get across was well informed and easily understood. She is also very relatable in a lot of ways.

    1. Christian Williams

      The getting hooked immediately made this book great for a assigned reading. Probably the thing that makes her most successful. The book still would have been manageable if it started slow, but it was good from the start and stayed that way.

    2. Moira O'Bryant

      I like how you mentioned that she writes in a way that allows you to picture everything in your head. I had a very similar experience while I was reading. It is not often that writers can describe things so vividly that you feel as if you are there. Especially because of the unique environments she was in and writing about .

    3. Chelsea Barnett

      I enjoyed reading Grunt as well and I think that it was really helpful reading her personal comments on the science and as you put it, “she discovers all of this stuff with the audience at the same time.” Roach is a very relatable writer which is one of the reasons why I think that her writing was so successful.

    4. Ruby

      I agree. I like your point about how she has no science degree but she “discovers all of this stuff with the audience”. What an excellent observation and it is very relatable while reading the book myself. I also appreciate her humor in alleviating the potentially unbearable gore with humor. It is also a great topic that she picked that most people wouldn’t really consider the interesting background for.

  7. Moira O'Bryant

    On a paper resume, Mary appears to be an excellent scientific writer. But personally, her writing style isn’t for me. At least in the context of the material she’s writing about. One of the goals of this book was to make people more aware of the scientific aspects of the military and what goes on behind the scenes that we don’t hear about. The subject matter is really interesting. But I think she is doing herself a disfavor with excessive humor. Her style is taking away from the focus of what she’s writing about. At times, she gives off the impression that what she is writing about isn’t of much importance. At the beginning of Chapter 11, she discusses Henry Field:
    “The desperation and terrification of the flight office is detailed in the official report of the incident, which Henry Field either heart about or read” (p. 204). This passage rubbed me the wrong way. I feel as though it diminishes some of her credibility as a scientific writer. I gives me the impression that she did not care enough find the details of the full story. Especially because you can’t take short cuts when it comes to science.

    1. Ryan Hoskins-Chaddon

      It’s true that you can’t take short cuts in science, but in all public endeavors one must consider their audience. Typically, a scientist is writing a paper so that other scientists can read and comprehend it. This uses an elevated vocabulary gained from many years in the scientific community and most people who are not as educated have issues understanding exactly what’s going on in the paper. I think Mary was trying to bring science to the common uneducated, or at least not scientifically literate. Imagine going on vacation to some rural place in Japan and that you don’t know the language; you can barely get around and miss so much that you likely wouldn’t have the greatest of trips. Bring an interpreter along and the trip becomes much more enjoyable and wider in scope. This is what Mary’s audience consists of and so, like a good author, writes on a level that everybody “visiting” science can read. I think that this makes her quite an accomplished scientific writer, even if I didn’t think she was very funny.

    2. Justin Baugh

      I have to disagree with your assessment. The quote is misquoted because of the fact the first part up until the comma is giving facts and after the comma is where Henry field wither heard about or read about and it had to do with the weather of the night of the incident in the report. And she did give the best of the story that she could have found the information for because of the time gap between the incident in that passage and when she wrote the book. The was no humor about the passage and I think that with her writing style one may try and find humor in everything she writes but in some cases she doesn’t use humor because she doesn’t know all of the facts. and that to me gives he more credibility as a writer.

    3. Isabella Darrah

      You have a very interesting view! I can definitely see where you are coming from. At times< Roach's humor was less smooth and subtle than perhaps she was going for.

  8. Chelsea Barnett

    I think that Roach is a successful science writer because she conveys scientific information to a non-scientific expert audience because she explains complex subjects in a way that is easy to understand, she makes scientific information entertaining to read about, and she engages in difficult conversations in a way that opens discussion. Roach goes in depth into subject well enough to explain subjects but not too far in depth that the information is too complicated to comprehend. Roach’s writing is definitely very engaging, she uses humor well to break up tension that may be surrounding difficult topics and also uses her humor to keep readers engaged and invested in the book. Roach combines her personal thoughts, the stories of people, history of war, and science to create a multifaceted approach to explaining the science of war. As a person who generally has a hard time reading scientific literature, Roach’s book was a fresh perspective of science and engaged me in reading.

  9. Justin Baugh

    Mary Roach is a successful scientific writer because she does grab the attention of the reader so that they are entranced in to reading her book and then learning about how the military tested weird and interesting inventions in order to save certain parts of the human body an how the human body reacts to different stimulants. She keeps the writing to a level where a layman can pick up the book and be entertained and learn or a scientist with a P.h.D could to the same. She also knows how to use humor to show the readers how the military is and to lighten the darker topics in the book.

  10. Ruby

    I believe Mary Roach is a successful science writer in the way she takes a subject that is mostly unrecognized and understood and makes it understandable to those who pick up the book. She is also successful in taking what some may consider a boring topic and making it interesting through her sense of humor. The way she presents her information she doesn’t throw it at the reader in a ‘matter-of-fact’ sort of manner but instead almost feels as if you’re being presented the information in a friendly way as if it would be like having a conversation. She still manages to communicate the points while maintaining interest. Everyone appreciates not being talked at or being bored. That being said, I can see why she might not be thought of as a successful science writer because the facts are nearly drown out with jokes. Not totally but she is pushing the limits. I understand though why the jokes are being used though, subjects in the text can be uncomfortable and disgusting at some points and humor helps alleviates that. What makes her successful is that the use doesn’t keep the intentional connotation from coming through. That is what is important and she successful in her science writing.

  11. Isabella Darrah

    Roach is a successful writer because she got her point across. For me, her humor made the foreign topics that she wrote about understandable, even relatable. It’s not often that I get to reach a book that is such a fast page-turner, and Grunt was it. I admire and appreciate how very thorough she was as well. She interviewed countless people and dug through decades-old files for each chapter.

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