National Book Award, Nonfiction, 2001
With uncommon humanity, candor, wit, and erudition, National Book Award winner Andrew Solomon takes the listener on a journey of incomparable range and resonance into the most pervasive of family secrets.
The Noonday Demon examines depression in personal, cultural, and scientific terms. Drawing on his own struggles with the illness and interviews with fellow sufferers, doctors and scientists, policymakers and politicians, drug designers and philosophers, Solomon reveals the subtle complexities and sheer agony of the disease. He confronts the challenge of defining the illness and describes the vast range of available medications, the efficacy of alternative treatments, and the impact the malady has had on various demographic populations around the world and throughout history. He also explores the thorny patch of moral and ethical questions posed by emerging biological explanations for mental illness.
The depth of human experience Solomon chronicles, the range of his intelligence, and his boundless curiosity and compassion will change the listener's view of the world.
©2002 Andrew Solomon (P)2012 Simon and Schuster Audio
"All encompassing, brave, and deeply humane.... It is open-minded, critically informed, and poetic at the same time, and despite the nature of its subject it is written with far too much élan and elegance ever to become depressing itself." (The New York Times)
"Both heartrending and fascinating.... the book has a scope and passionate intelligence that give it intrigue as well as heft." (Boston Globe)
"The book for a generation.... Solomon interweaves a personal narrative with scientific, philosophical, historical, political, and cultural insights.... The result is an elegantly written, meticulously researched book that is empathetic and enlightening, scholarly and useful.... Solomon apologizes that 'no book can span the reach of human suffering.' This one comes close." (TIme)
If you haven't suffered from catastrophic depression and want a guide-book, this is the book for you. The author has researched his topic well, but his preoccupation with his own story makes it difficult to distinguish the difference among autobiography, scholastic statistics, and anecdote. All three are in fact pretty grim.
Depression is serious, and it deserves serious attention. But the fact that the author leaves open the question of his own suicidal risk while graphically describing his mother's assisted suicide and citing statistics on the risks is not helpful to the reader.
I've read a number of the works the author cites. Kay Jamison has written graphic memoirs on her own depression, suicidal feelings, and the multitude of difficult treatments she underwent before she was stabilized on the correct regimen. She's also written a body of literature--for both clinical practitioners and those struggling with the disease--exploring the realities of mood disorders, suicidal risks and statistics that should be considered in treating depression. She also explores the creative aspects of ongoing mood swings.
Solomon tries to convey a message, but the reader is left to discern what it is. It may have been therapeutic to write. Not so therapeutic to read.
Yes. To avoid recommending this work to my clients.
This is a great book if you want to hang out with depression in its many forms. It's like a fleamarket for depression-related thoughts, scenes, and events. There are moments of perfection - stories of assisted suicide, of people who attempt to get infected with HIV, insides of mental hospitals, individuals with moving life stories and many more.
If this book had been written as a series of focused short stories, like 'The man who mistook his wife for a hat' or 'phantoms in the brain', it would have worked perfectly.
As it is, the book seems long, at times a little scattered, and one sometimes can feel that they are reading a memoir of the author rather than a book about depression itself. It lacks a clear message: based mostly on personal stories with little synthesis, it is reminiscent of many other books about scientific topics that are written by non-experts with a journalistic bent - while fun, you may not really learn anything new.
The perspective is very interesting - I like that he discusses his own experiences but then also provides the experiences of others. Also, including objective information helps maintain an unbiased view.
He reminds me of the author so I am able to picture him in the scenes/experiences in the book more easily.
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