Reviews for Noonday Demon : An Atlas of Depression


Kirkus Reviews 2001 April #2
A reader's guide to depression, hopelessly bleak yet heartbreakingly real.In this massive tome, Solomon (A Stone Boat, 1994, etc.) confronts the terrors of depression with a breadth both panoramic and precise. The 12 tersely titled chapters ("Depression," "Breakdowns," "Treatments," "Alternatives," "Populations," "Addiction," "Suicide," "History," "Poverty," "Politics," "Evolution," and "Hope") address with spectacular clarity the ways in which depression steals lives away, leaving its prey bereft of their very selves. Despite the occasional cliché ("Life is fraught with sorrows") and heavy metaphor ("Grief is a humble angel"), Solomon's prose illuminates a dark topic through the unfolding tales of his sources and his own life story; by allowing the voices of those who battle depression to speak, rich and varied pictures of daily struggle, defeat, and triumph ultimately emerge. The author deserves kudos as well both for the geographical span of his account (which ranges from Senegal to Greenland) and for its historical sweep (which begins with Hippocrates and continues to the present). Paradoxically, the completeness of Solomon's vision undermines his readability: so much suffering fills these pages that, at times, it's all a bit too much darkness. (The gruesome litany of suicide techniques, for example, seems gratuitous.) Nevertheless, the importance of the work becomes virtually self-evident when Solomon addresses such topics as the cultural denial of depression, masculine fears of seeking treatment, strengths and weaknesses of various treatments, the salutary effect of diet and exercise on depression, the high cost of treatment, and chronic depression among the elderly. Fortunately the final chapter is "Hope"--for the reader will certainly be in need of some after the marathon of gloom. So good, so vitally important, but so . . . depressing.Author tour Copyright Kirkus 2001 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved

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Library Journal Reviews 2001 February #1
Based on an acclaimed 1998 New Yorker piece on Solomon's struggle with depression. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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Library Journal Reviews 2001 April #2
In addition to the self-help and parental advice genres is the literary and philosophical study of depression that harks back to Richard Burton's The Anatomy of Melancholy. The Noonday Demon, based on an article that Solomon wrote for The New Yorker in 1998, is such a book. The backbone of this superb work is the author's narrative of his own struggles with severe depression his musings on its multifarious causes and on the role that his privileged socioeconomic status has played in its successful management. Solomon also interviewed scores of other depression sufferers about their trials with treatment and visited Africa, Greenland, and Cambodia in search of different cultural perspectives. This journalistic approach allows Solomon to convey a great deal of information in the form of fascinating, if sometimes horrific, life stories. This compassionate work that never simplifies complex matters is essential for all collections. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2001 May #2
H"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 context 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.

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