HOW TO LIVE TO BE 100: The Life-Style of the People of the Caucasus by Sula Benet

HOW TO LIVE TO BE 100: The Life-Style of the People of the Caucasus

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Not a non-book, this, but a quasi-book, all the more aggravating because of the tantalizing bits of information and thought it contains. The title is misleading, perhaps intentionally; it suggests yet another self-improvement handbook, whereas it is a readable but random and thin anthropologist's introduction to the peoples of the Caucasus, the Soviet mountain region which produces the world's highest percentage of healthy, active centenarians. Anthropologist Benet, in seven trips to what had been ""the land of my childhood fantasies,"" met and conversed with many vigorous people over 100 (unlike their Ecuadorean contemporaries, they have their teeth) and was able to verify their ages with the help of village records and Soviet demographers. Others have been there--cf. Leaf & Launois' Youth in Old Age. Her documentation is the most valuable part of her book--refuting a widespread skepticism she feels springs from our defensive faith in technology. Her personal anecdotes are entertaining, the scraps of Caucasian anthropology are intriguing, the moments of speculation on the deficiencies of our own society are provocative. One problem is, there isn't enough of any of these, nothing reaches any completion or depth, and the whole is slapped together without much plan or logic. There's useful stuff here about what we can learn from the Caucasians (regular life rhythms, ways of handling stress, herbal folk medicine, moderation in eating, strong family interdependence, an honored and useful place for the old), but author Benet frustrates more than she enlightens. The patchwork is completed by a handful of Caucasian recipes.

Pub Date: Feb. 27th, 1976
Publisher: Dial