Carl Elliott is the author of Better Than Well, described by the Atlantic Monthly as “an ambitious and accessible look at how people use medical ‘enhancement technologies’ from Botox to beta-blockers in the seemingly endless struggle to look younger, feel better, and declare themselves happy and fulfilled.”
An excerpt from an interview at the Atlantic site:
You return to Walker Percy several times in your book, quoting from his novels to illustrate some of the anxieties that enhancement technologies have risen to meet. You’ve also co-edited a book of essays about Percy’s dual identity as a doctor and a novelist. How has reading Percy influenced your work?
Percy’s my favorite. I discovered him at the very worst point in my medical education, when I was the most miserable. Percy had quit medicine himself. He began a pathology internship shortly after he finished medical school, and then he got tuberculosis and had to quit. He always said that tuberculosis was the best disease he ever had, because it let him quit medicine. I can remember reading that and thinking, Damn, how do I get tuberculosis? I’m a southerner, like Percy. I went to medical school, like he did. And I quit medicine, like he did. He spent about a decade writing obscure philosophical articles for philosophy journals before he published The Moviegoer. So I can’t help but look at him and think, That’s the way I’d like to be.
A portion of the Elliott book first appeared in the Atlantic as “A New Way to be Mad.”
A friend of mine recently worked on some training films for pharmaceutical sales representatives. “Somewhere in New Jersey a car salesmen just decided how to treat your Grandmother’s Alzheimer’s,” she said.