Sohrab Ahmari of The Wall Street Journal reports for NY1 on newly released book titles and the world of publishing in "The Book Reader."
The quest for immortal life is as old as civilization. Yet despite constant advances in medical science, living forever remains as elusive today as ever. But that hasn't discouraged folks from trying everything from cryogenic sleep to supposedly life-extending bracelets. It's this world of latter-day spiritualists, pseudo-scientists and assorted cranks that Adam Gollner explores with sharp reporting and good humor in "The Book of Immortality."
The author visits Copperfield Bay, the Bahamas island owned by David Copperfield and home, he says, to a secret fountain of youth, whose water revives dead leaves and makes everything seem "more vibrant." The magician says he's conducting scientific experiments to prove the fountain's properties. In the meanwhile, the bay helps people "feel like kids again," if they can cough up the nearly $40,000 it costs to rent the property per night.
Daniel Rudman, an endocrinologist, pioneered the injection of growth hormone as a way of slowing the aging process. Sadly, Rudman died at age 67. Linda Goodman, an astrologer, prescribed fruit juice as the key to immortal life. She died at age 70 of diabetes. Aubrey de Grey, a British-born anti-aging guru in California, is so consumed with the goal of preventing death, he willingly drinks several pints of beer per day. I hope he's onto something.
In the end, the quest for immortal life will go on. As the futurist Ray Kurzweil tells Mr. Gollner: Death "is such a sad, lonely feeling that I really can't bear it. So I go back to thinking about how I'm not going to die." Adam Gollner has done a terrific job of reminding us that, though we all have to die, it may not be the worst thing.
For more Wall Street Journal book reviews, visit opinion-journal-dot-com. And pick up the Saturday Journal with its Books supplement, this week featuring new books on free speech, abominable science and why we all love noodles.