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The Noonday Demon: An Atlas Of Depression Hardcover – Sep 16 2014
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Sometimes, the legacy of depression includes a wisdom beyond one's years, a depth of passion unexperienced by those who haven't traveled to hell and back. Off the charts in its enlightening, comprehensive analysis of this pervasive yet misunderstood condition, The Noonday Demon forges a long, brambly path through the subject of depression--exposing all the discordant views and "answers" offered by science, philosophy, law, psychology, literature, art, and history. The result is a sprawling and thoroughly engrossing study, brilliantly synthesized by author Andrew Solomon.
Deceptively simple chapter titles (including "Breakdowns," "Treatments," "Addiction," "Suicide") each sit modestly atop a virtual avalanche of Solomon's intellect. This is not a book to be skimmed. But Solomon commands the language--and his topic--with such grace and empathy that the constant flow of references, poems, and quotations in his paragraphs arrive like welcome dinner guests. A longtime sufferer of severe depression himself, Solomon willingly shares his life story with readers. He discusses updated information on various drugs and treatment approaches while detailing his own trials with them. He describes a pharmaceutical company's surreal stage production (involving Pink Floyd, kick dancers, and an opener à la Cats) promoting a new antidepressant to their sales team. He chronicles his research visits to assorted mental institutions, which left him feeling he would "much rather engage with every manner of private despair than spend a protracted time" there. Under Solomon's care, however, such tales offer much more than shock value. They show that depression knows no social boundaries, manifests itself quite differently in each person, and has become political. And, while it may worsen or improve, depression will never be eradicated. Hope lies in finding ways--as Solomon clearly has--to harness its powerful lessons. --Liane Thomas --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
"Depression is the flaw in love. To be creatures who love, we must be creatures who despair," begins Solomon's expansive and astutely observed examination of the experience, origins, and cultural manifestations of depression. While placing his study in a broad social contex-- according to recent research, some 19 million Americans suffer from chronic depression--he also chronicles his own battle with the disease. Beginning just after his senior year in college, Solomon began experiencing crippling episodes of depression. They became so bad that after losing his mother to cancer and his therapist to retirement he attempted (unsuccessfully) to contract HIV so that he would have a reason to kill himself. Attempting to put depression and its treatments in a cross-cultural context, he draws effectively and skillfully on medical studies, historical and sociological literature, and anecdotal evidence, analyzing studies of depression in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, Inuit life in Greenland, the use of electroshock therapy and the connections between depression and suicide in the U.S. and other cultures. In examining depression as a cultural phenomenon, he cites many literary melancholics Virginia Woolf, Samuel Beckett, John Milton, Shakespeare, John Keats, and George Eliot as well as such thinkers as Freud and Hegel, to map out his "atlas" of the condition. Smart, empathetic, and exhibiting a wide and resonant knowledge of the topic, Solomon has provided an enlightening and sobering window onto both the medical and imaginative worlds of depression. (June)Forecast: Excerpted last year in the New Yorker, this pathbreaking work is bound to attract major review attention and media, boosted by a seven-city tour.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
The second problem with this review is nothing less than a mistake. The author does NOT get a cingulotomy, he simply writes about another person's experience with this procedure. Indeed, the matter is mentioned on perhaps three pages in the whole book. I'm not sure how the reviewer came to this conclusion, but perhaps he was bored and reading quickly through a book that he unfairly depicts as "psychobabble."
Solomon's book is admittedly lengthy, and somewhat simplified in certain technical matters, but it is beautifully written and does a great job conveying the subjective experience of depression. He also gives plenty of practical information on etiology and treatment. I would highly recommend it to anyone who is either dealing with depression or trying to cope with a depressed family member. Do not be deterred by erroneous reviews.
I suffer from both clinical depression, and profound suicidal ideations. Contrary to the assertions of a previous reviewer, Solomon points out the difference between depression that is a chronic mental illness, as opposed to being a little weepy about "Sex & the City" ending its run. This is not a "psycho-babble" book. Solomon is critical of the ignorant view that people suffering from depression need to just "get over it" or "cheer up" or "think positive." Depression is much more than that: It is an illness. Telling someone who is clinically depressed to "cheer up" is like telling someone who is near-sighted to just concentrate harder, and you will see clearer. While both are possible, do not bet on either working.
Solomon also attacks those irresponsible authors who contend that medication to address mental illness is not necessary. While certainly there may be some mild forms of mental illness that can be treated with "potatoes, not prozac" (to coin a phrase), to say that medication is not necessary is not only wrong, but insulting.
Still, while mental illness does has its origins in biochemical reactions, the "disease" model is an imperfect fit. That is where Solomon's book really provides a service: People suffering from depression do need medication. Nevertheless, your doctor is committing malpractice if you only take medication, and do not pursue a program of talk therapy.
About two years ago, I had a significant tumble. A friend read a review for Solomon's book, and encouraged me to read it. I did.Read more ›
I think sometimes the author's reach exceeded his grasp, and the book could have been trimmed without losing its impact. It's a good book to dip into rather than plow straight through, if you're depressed that is.
Depression is a progressive disease. If you don't treat depression with medication or therapy it can get worse. That was enough to get me into treatment.
I also thought Solomon did an amazing job of showing how devastating severe depression can be; vertigo, throwing up and delusions yet he did not make people like myself with chronic though not severe depression feel slighted.
The overview sections were less effective but allowed the book to claim its title "An atlas of depression." It felt jarring to go from the intimate, personal account of a serious disease into a more abstract discussion of the various aspects of depression and yet I believe that was the point. Its not enough to see depression as the devastation wrecked upon a single life but as a widespread illness that fingers its way through so many aspects of so many lives.
Most recent customer reviews
If you really want to know what mental illness feels like find another book, trust me i know what i am talking about.Published 5 months ago by leiva
as advertised--excellent condition---shipped Quickly A+++Published 5 months ago by Laurie A. Mcnevan
Talented writer and public speaker. A lot of good advice in this book to carry around for life.Published 8 months ago by Jamie
Mr. Solomon has taken his experience of depression and anxiety, along with the excruciating experience of others and created a masterpiece. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Sonja
Having seen his Ted Talk, what got my attention was "The opposite of depression isn't happiness, it's vitality". Read morePublished 12 months ago by Charles McFarland
An incredible resource for those struggling with, or wanting to understand depression. Not a book you read straight through, but a great source for information about this disease.Published 14 months ago by Augusta
This book claims to be an atlas of depression but in reality it is much more of a kaleidoscope. The basic problem, as usual, is that the author does not differentiate between... Read morePublished 21 months ago by Paridell
This is an easily read book that anyone with a friend or family member with depression should read. I haven't finished it yet but think the rest of it will be as informative as... Read morePublished on Dec 24 2012 by Jan