Robert's Reviews > The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression

The Noonday Demon by Andrew Solomon
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Jan 18, 12

Read from September 17, 2011 to January 01, 2012

A truly sweeping exploration of a mysterious part of the human condition that is often misunderstood because it is intricately threaded into our conceptions of self... there is no bleeding wound, there is no smoking gun... but the resulting pain and suffering that affects the individual and society are impossible to ignore. Andrew Solomon, fortunately, is up to the enormous task of grappling with this shadowy behemoth. His writing is humane, rich, and highly intelligent... delving deep into personal histories with remarkable restraint and sensitivity, sorting through huge amounts of data to find the salient points, and patiently sharing conflicting opinions so that a broader understanding can be achieved. His own viewpoint is unmistakable, and at times he does veer into the problematic of seeing all of humanity through this one lens, but the overall tone is even-handed and non-histrionic.

That being said... he does not shy away from big statements. There are sublime moments of stylistic lyricism and insight, like the opening paragraph:
"Depression is the flaw in love. To be creatures who love, we must be creatures who can despair at what we lose, and depression is the mechanism of despair."

Or this in the final chapter, called Hope:
"The fact of the matter is that existentialism is as true as depressiveness. Life is futile. We cannot know why we are here. Love is always imperfect. The isolation of bodily individuality can never be broached. No matter what you do on this earth, you will die. It is a selective advantage to be able to tolerate these realities, to look to other things, and to go on... Depressives have seen the world too clearly, have lost the selective advantage of blindness."

And yet, there is hope..."The self exists in the narrow space where the world and our choices come together... the medicine will not reinvent you. We can never escape from choice itself. One's self lies in the choosing, every choice, every day. ... The opposite of depression is not happiness but vitality... Every day, I choose, sometimes gamely and sometimes against the moment's reason, to be alive. Is that not a rare joy?"
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