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The Noonday Demon: An Atlas Of Depression Hardcover – June 12, 2001


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; 1 edition (June 12, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 068485466X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684854663
  • Product Dimensions: 1.6 x 6.4 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (228 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #149,712 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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

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.


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Customer Reviews

This book is very well written and researched.
Joan
I highly recommend it for anyone who suffers from depression or cares for someone who does.
Romantic Anna
Solomon is very open about his own journey through the hell of depression.
C. Alvarez

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

197 of 203 people found the following review helpful By "tyler_derby" on June 6, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This is a landmark work in the history of depression. Never before has anyone described the emotions felt during depression so elegantly. Andrew's literary skill makes each page of this book a pleasure to read. The Noonday Demon is not only well-written, it is also extremely informative. The author takes us on a journey through personal experiences, provides detailed descriptions of medications and side affects, and explores the efficacy of alternative treatments. In the second half of the book he goes on to describe depression in multiple contexts such as history and philosophy.
I have been a long time sufferer of depression and I have found hope in this book. It is a subject that I have long been ashamed to speak about outside of my therapist's office. Andrew works to remove the stigma behind this illness and bring all aspects of the disease to light. Depression has no cure, it something must be dealt with and treated on a daily basis. I find strength in the knowledge that so many others are successfully treating depression, even if they are not conquering it completely.
The Noonday Demon is a remarkable work that should be read and reread.
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163 of 171 people found the following review helpful By Susan on June 10, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I think I have acquired every book on depression ever written within the past 15 years in order to understand the illness. Most are good but tend to focus on one aspect of the disease, whether it be the methods of dealing with it, the medical blah blah behind it or stories from sufferers. Mr. Solomon has taken all of these and then some and put them in his book. It is by far the most concise and comprehensive book on depression that I have ever read! I was especially fascinated by the historical perspective as well as the stories from individual sufferers. The book goes into the author's own battle at great length, which automatically lends credibility since I don't think you can truly write about a subject like this unless you have actually experienced it firsthand. Lots of information on treatments, demographic data and the like. If you are a sufferer or know someone who is, get this book!
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203 of 217 people found the following review helpful By Sandra D. Peters on June 12, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Who, at least at one point in their life, has not been mildly depressed? As a counsellor, if you were to tell me that not once, ever in your entire life did you ever feel down or depressed, I would probably want to make sure you were still breathing. However, for many, depression can be a severe, chronic battle each and every day, and one of the biggest setbacks in an individual's life. It can be a family's nightmare, hinder careers and personal relationships, and play havoc with a person's self-image. For some, just getting up in the morning can take evey ounce of willpower. There have been many books written on depression, some are excellent self-help books, others ARE depressing to read. This book, however, is an insightful look inside depression in personal, scientific and cultural terms. The author also takes a look at the biological aspects of the disease which, for many, can be a controversial issue.
Solomon has battled depression for much of his life. Through his research and studies, he has gained valuable knowledge on the subject which he openly shares with his readers. Of the vast number of books written on depression, "Noonday Demon" is definitely one of the most complete, accurate and informative ones to be found. I also enjoyed his easy manner, occasional wit and positive approach to an affliction that for a multitude of individuals can be a disabling, life-long illness.
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66 of 67 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 30, 2001
Format: Hardcover
The most immediately obvious strength of The Noonday Demon by Andrew Solomon is its supple, incisive, funny, harrowing prose. Its deepest strength is its probing examination of depression from many points of view--historical, clinical, cultural, political, evolutionary, and personal. With a novelist's gift for bringing people to life and a journalist's skill at explaining complicated topics, Solomon is always informative and profoundly humane. He makes the blurry boundaries and maddening complexities of the issues involved comprehensible while arguing persuasively that depression is an inescapable reality of the human condition. The book is highly original. He tells his personal story but widens it with movingly explored case histories and successfully sets these narratives in the context of thorough examinations of the many topics necessary to see the overall subject.
The Noonday Demon can set the agenda for an important national discussion. As it makes clear, depression touches all of us whether we ourselves suffer its terrible debilities, know someone who does, or live with (and are probably unaware of) its devastating results for our communities and workplaces. I thought I knew a lot about the topic; I found how much I needed to learn by reading this book. I was most impressed by how honestly Solomon deals with the fact that there are no easy answers to any aspect of the issue, even when he has strong opinions (and his personal point of view is always welcome in these pages: I liked knowing where he stood). No reader is likely to agree with everything he says, but no one will go away doubting the truth of his cri de coeur that as long as we misunderstand depression, people quite literally will die. Highly recommended for anyone who wishes to understand what depression feels like, what it is and is not, how it can be treated, and what happens when it is ignored.
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