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The Forgetting: Alzheimer's, Portrait of an Epidemic
Synopses & Reviews
An urgent and moving exploration of the Alzheimer?s epidemic, The Forgetting is a dazzling meditation on the nature of memory and self and on the disease that robs people of both.
Alzheimer?s disease is a demographic time bomb. Since 1975, the number of Americans afflicted has risen from five hundred thousand to five million; over the next fifty years, an estimated eighty to one hundred million more people worldwide will succumb to it. But it is the story behind these numbers that makes The Forgetting such a landmark work. A magnificent synthesis of history, science, politics, psychology ,and profound human drama, the book explores the nature of a disease that attacks not merely memory but the very core of our human identity.
Delving into such diverse areas as art history, literature, genetics, and neurobiology, David Shenk shows that Alzheimer?s particular terror, the gradual eradication of memory and of mind is as old as humankind itself. He convincingly posits that such historical figures as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Jonathan Swift and Frederick Law Olmstead were caught in the disease?s insidious grip. Moving portraits of contemporary patients, their families, and their caregivers drive home the sad pattern of regression Alzheimer?s exacts, a pathology that eerily mirrors child development in reverse. Yet Shenk offers a well of empathy and understanding for families striving to better understand and come to terms with their loss.
With equal mastery Shenk charts the complicated race to find a cure. As scientists pursue a treatment worth billions of dollars, the brutal competition among them poses a serious threat to the traditional ethic of sharing vital research. But there are heartening signs of progress, and for the first time there is excitement among scientists that a cure may indeed be possible.
Shenk eloquently calls Alzheimer?s ?death by a thousand subtractions.? The Forgetting is at once a powerful examination of what this means and a forthright discussion of the impact this epidemic will have on the life of every reader.
"Like most laymen, Shenk believes that the dramatic progress in our understanding of Alzheimer's means that a good treatment is on the horizon, but no dramatic breakthrough seems imminent....The subject may be depressing, but it's also important, and the author holds the reader's interest to the end." Kirkus Reviews
Book News Annotation:
Shenk is an able writer and his topic is without question engrossing. The process of how Alzheimer disease develops, its effect on the family, evidence of the illness in historic figures, how it has been traditionally understood and depicted, the history of its study, and the current race to find a cure are the central themes of the book.
Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
About the Author
David Shenk is the author of Data Smog, which The New York Times hailed as an ?indispensable guide to the big picture of technology?s cultural impact.? A former fellow at the Freedom Forum Media Studies Center at Columbia University, he has written for Harper?s, Wired, Salon, The New Republic, the Washington Post, and The New Yorker and is an occasional commentator for NPR?s All Things Considered. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife and daughter.
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