No Toilet Paper But Plenty of Ass

Meet Colin Breavan, 43; Michelle Conlin, 39; and Isabella Beavan, 2, your cast in the hurlyburly tragicomedy that is today's Times' House and Home section. (And is also another exhibit in how House & Home is killing Thursday Styles.) Colin Breavan, a writer of historical nonfiction, had been cast adrift by the vagaries of publishing and was looking for a new book deal. His Faustian agent thought a book about living a year without wiping might sell well. FSG thought so too.

So Michelle, a tender hearted Business Week writer and wife of Colin, was roped into this yearlong experiment of "No Impact" living. Together the couple discard their lightbulbs, disposable razors and olive oil, vowing to live green. They even confiscate the cleaning lady's paper towels, though in a touching scene, lit only by flickering beeswax candles, the woman makes a plea to keep her beloved vacuum. Our munificent heroes relent. Slowly but surely, the couples friends drift away, repulsed by the "sour odor hover[ing] oh-so-slightly in the air... that is the mark of the home composter," and Colin's annoying mantra, "Oh man, this book is going to be so fucking killer."

Michelle's face, cleansed only with Fresh and Kiehl's product, her teeth caked in baking soda, begins to whither and fade without coffee. At one point, she Razor-scoots through a blizzard. But Colin won't be deterred. His book, he reminds himself, is going to be just so very fucking killer. And so as his family deteriorates, held together only by unbleached cotton and riven by his "ethically murky exercise in self-promotion," as one visitor puts it, Colin quietly weeps on the toilet, too moist to move and too proud to wipe. However will he countenance the fact that Manhattan's water comes from so far away? A draft snuffs out the candle. EXEUNT OMNES.

The Year Without Toilet Paper [NYT]