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Better Than Well: American Medicine Meets the American Dream Paperback – June 17, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Elliott, a professor of bioethics and philosophy at the University of Minnesota, has discovered one of the biggest American maladies and fears-social phobia-and knows that Americans are on the hunt for the cure. His book reads like a travelogue that takes readers through the many forms of remedy, from Viagra, Paxil, and Botox, to the other American disease, "boredom" and our various responses to it. In the 19th century, "personalities were not just facades but outward indicators," he writes, that revealed you "as you really were." Adding to our self-consciousness, are "mirrors, photographs, films, television, home video, and the World Wide Web." We watch celebrities who are aware that they are being watched, and compounding the problem is "the strange loneliness and alienation that comes from watching." Arguing that "now we are excessively self-conscious about being self-conscious," Elliott, packing the book with intriguing examples of manifestations as well as cultural references, examines our self-consciousness and the roots of it. The writing is intelligent and thought provoking, but readers looking for a self-help book or any easy answer will not find it here.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Bioethics/philosophy professor Elliott on our love/hate relationship with drugs and other "enhancement technologies."
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (June 17, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393325652
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393325652
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 1 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #111,510 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Carl Elliott prefers to write about himself in the third person in order to give the impression that he is too important to submit his own biography. A native South Carolinian, Elliott teaches bioethics and philosophy at the University of Minnesota and writes occasionally for magazines such as The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly and Slate.com. His estranged younger brother ridicules him periodically at the unfortunate website, www.whitecoatblackhat.com. His attorneys are addressing the situation.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Irene M. Piekarski on April 1, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This book, beautifully written, is a meditation on the looking glass world American Medicine has become. Forty-one million Americans uninsured, yet billions are being spent on medicallizing common aspects of human life. We all age--are facelifts really a "medical " procedure? Is shyness a disease? When does naming something produce it? (see Barfield's Poetic Diction).
I loved this book for clarifying the various ways we have of looking at health, wellness, self-improvement and fear.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By simon matthew on November 4, 2009
Format: Paperback
Though Carl is formally a philosopher and a doctor, this book demonstrates his incredible ability to deftly play the role of a sociologist, anthropologist, and journalist as well. As the book meanders its way through topics as diverse as attention deficit disorder and foot binding in Japan, Dr. Elliot makes astute insights on the concept of satisfaction and happiness in the age of enhancement technologies. As Peter Kramer notes in his introduction, he accomplishes his goal without a tone of condescension, but with one of compassion, rare amongst writers on this topic. Dr. Elliot does not concern himself with normative theories, but instead opens up the door for more conversation on a fascinating subject. The conclusions he makes can be depressing, but they are never sensationalist. Highly recommended.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Irene M. Piekarski on April 1, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This book, beautifully written, is a meditation on the looking glass world American Medicine has become. Forty-one million Americans uninsured, yet billions are being spent on medicallizing common aspects of human life. We all age--are facelifts really a "medical " procedure? Is shyness a disease? When does naming something produce it? (see Barfield's Poetic Diction).
I loved this book for clarifying the various ways we have of looking at health, wellness, self-improvement and fear.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Justin Teague on March 26, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you've only read a little bit of philosophy, this is great place to begin. It's written very casually and gently wanders from topic to topic, but lacks structure and rigor. It drops many keen perceptions about contemporary life and selfhood, but the better ones are all from works cited (and uncited-- the 20th century philosopher Martin Heidegger is clearly an influence, but never mentioned by name.)
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Pharmacy Student on July 11, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Elliott's book is a good read for those who have ever worried about America's growing obsession with medicine and technology. Even if you haven't ever wondered or thought about this part of American life, read the book anyway, because you should probably start. Elliott brings in a little of everything: the past, present and future, and scientific data as well as personal opinion, in order to ask the question, 'So where are we going with all this?' I think that this book can start a lot of us out on the right foot in trying to answer that question...
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