When we consider the concept of immortality, we often think of famous people like Ponce de Leon searching for the Fountain of Youth, or the late baseball legend Ted Williams, who asked that his body be cryogenically frozen in the hope that science would someday find a “cure” for death. Yes, immortality is a strange and mysterious subject. And in the hands of a gifted writer like Jonathan Weiner, man’s quest for immortality becomes illuminating and inspiring.
Weiner’s Long for This World poses the questions: Could we live forever? And if we could, would we want to? Long for This World explores these questions from both a historical context and a contemporary point of view. It is a science book, but one written with verve and vitality. It examines complicated concepts, but it does so with clear and creative writing. We’ve come to expect this from Weiner, the author of numerous books on science, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Beak of the Finch. Weiner teaches science writing at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, and he brings that same direct style to his books.
In Long for This World, Weiner explains mankind’s long fascination with immortality. He draws on the works of Dante, Shakespeare and Darwin, among others, to establish a historical foundation for the subject. He also interviews some of the top scientists in the field, most notably Aubrey David Nicholas Jasper de Grey, a British author and researcher who thinks of aging as a disease and is seeking a cure to stop the aging process. Even apart from his intriguing area of study, de Grey is a particularly colorful character: “When he stands up, his beard reaches a surprising distance toward his waist. . . . He looks like Methuselah before the Flood. Father Time before his hair turned gray. Timothy Leary Unbound.”
It’s that kind of colorful, descriptive writing that makes Long for This World so readable—just as it should be for a book that celebrates mankind’s imagination, inventiveness and inspiration.