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

The Noonday Demon by Andrew Solomon
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's review
Aug 15, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: nf, psychology, depression
Read in August, 2012

Looks like an encyclopedia on depression, but reads more like a memoir. Even the sections where Solomon doesn't include his own struggles with depression along side the current research, he offers many vignettes of people he has encountered. Some, upon seeing the book, have remarked, "What a depressing book!" But for me it has had the opposite effect--enlightening, engaging, hopeful. A certain amount of peace comes from knowing that we as a civilization have been struggling with the noonday demon for centuries.

Advice for reading: read the first introductory chapter on depression then allow yourself to move freely from one section (Breakdowns, Treatments, Addiction, Suicide, History etc) to another. Sometimes I had a place marked in 5 or 6 sections. And it did take me three years to read this book (actually still have some of the latter sections to read) though I read a lot in short bursts.

Many many quotable but no time right now to get into the details--maybe after I completely finish the book. Well, maybe just one: "In depression I learned the acreage of my soul" (24) Or one of the many quotations from famous writers on depression: "Labour is the only radical care for rooted sorrow" (Bronte)

A poem from Edna St Vincent Millay

And must I then, indeed, Pain, live with you
All through my life?--Sharing my fire, my bed,
Sharing--oh, worst of all things!--the same head?--
And, when I feed myself, feeding you, too?

The book is a labour of love wrested from and through and because of Solomon's own depression. His fight against depression was to understand it and offer it up to us even knowing that understanding is not enough when it comes to such a foe as depression. A beautiful book.

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