Cover image for Better than well : American medicine meets the American dream
Better than well : American medicine meets the American dream
Elliott, Carl, 1961-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : W.W. Norton, [2003]

Physical Description:
xxi, 357 pages ; 25 cm
The perfect voice -- The true self -- The face behind the mask -- The loneliness of the late-night television watcher -- The identity bazaar -- Three ways to feel homesick -- Pilgrims and strangers -- Resident aliens -- Amputees by choice -- Bringing up baby -- Second acts -- Conclusion: the tyranny of happiness.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
RA418.3.U6 E455 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



From Viagra to Prozac, Americans have always been the world's most anxiously enthusiastic consumers of "enhancement technologies, " and this humane and provocative book is a resonant exploration of the paradoxes of these methods of self-improvement.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

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. (Feb.) Forecast: The publishers compare this to such books as Listening to Prozac, but readers will find this much more philosophical. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Why do Americans place so much emphasis on individual identity and self-fulfillment? How does the concept of self vary from one culture to the next? Does the use of enhancement procedures or drugs make you more true to your "real" self, or does it make you a fraud? Why do so many Americans embrace these new technologies yet still feel uncomfortable about resorting to them? In this engrossing book, Elliott (bioethics & philosophy, Univ. of Minnesota) goes beyond cosmetic surgery to examine enhancements such as antianxiety drugs, steroids, growth hormones, cochlear implants, gene therapy, and Botox to analyze why many Americans think that they have an obligation to drive themselves to be better and better. Elliott argues that as we become obsessed with fitting in, we are susceptible to peer pressure and marketing campaigns aimed at selling us products and procedures that will make our lives "better." While titles like Peter Cramer's Listening to Prozac and Christopher Lasch's The Culture of Narcissism debate the pros and cons of using enhancement technologies, Elliott helps us understand why people choose them in the first place. Highly recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/15/02.]-Tina Neville, Univ. of South Florida at St. Petersburg Lib. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Peter D. Kramer
Forewordp. IX
Introductionp. XV
1 The Perfect Voicep. 1
2 The True Selfp. 28
3 The Face Behind the Maskp. 54
4 The Loneliness of the Late-Night Television Watcherp. 77
5 The Identity Bazaarp. 100
6 Three Ways to Feel Homesickp. 129
7 Pilgrims and Strangersp. 161
8 Resident Aliensp. 186
9 Amputees by Choicep. 208
10 Bringing up Babyp. 237
11 Second Actsp. 273
12 Conclusion: The Tyranny of Happinessp. 295
Notesp. 305
Acknowledgmentsp. 333
Indexp. 339