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Insomnia Hardcover – November 13, 2018
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Praise for InsomniaNamed a Best Book of the Year by BuzzFeed
An American Booksellers Association Indie Next Pick
"A short, lucid book about long white nights . . . [Benjamin] writes feelingly about the frustrations of being awake when you don’t want to be . . . Her moans about her futile thought-loops alternate with flattering descriptions of her radiant nocturnal consciousness." ―The New Yorker
"Velvety ruminations on night wakefulness . . . Benjamin's mind works like a wide-roving trawler that rakes an area repeatedly before moving on to adjacent territory . . . Insomnia turns out to be somewhat of a celebration of sleeplessness as well as a lament . . . and is filled with memorable images." ―Heller McAlpin, NPR
"[A] slim, thoughtful book." ―Ron Charles, The Washington Post
"Elegant, provocative . . . In Benjamin's writing, it becomes clear that the mysteriousness of the night, its blurred boundaries, its endlessly subtle tonal variations, is a precious space, particularly for those of us who do not naturally fare well in the harsh light of the sun. Better, then, to stay in the gentle glow of the moon, beneath the hot, infinite sparks of the stars above, and set our own schedules, make up our own rules, in accordance with who we want to be, not who we're told we must become." ―Kristin Iversen, NYLON
“A svelte work of nonfiction that bridges memoir and the history of sleeplessness . . . Benjamin has written three other memoirs and she knows her way around the form, drawing out personal details and reminiscences and connecting them to a larger history of sleep and its discontents . . . She pings between mythological stories of sleepers and gods of sleep, dreamers and insomniacs, as well as cultural and literary approaches to sleeplessness. Like a night-ride through an insomniac’s mind, Benjamin’s book moves from thought to thought, driven by tangential linkages rather than logical progression . . . But the writing itself is so luminous that you hardly notice . . . It’s writing like this, effortless as a sleeping dog, that carries you through Insomnia, the kind of book for those late hours of the night, keeping you company when you’re most alone.” ―Colin Dickey, Los Angeles Times
"Benjamin's impassioned and elegant memoir is not just an intimate account of a disorder for which there is still no straightforward cure, but a defiant celebration of its paradoxical potential . . . Her key idea, approached via detours into history, philosophy and art, is that the inability to sleep is not just a symptom of an underlying pathology but an existential experience that can give us fresh insights into the nature of creativity and love." ―Elizabeth Lowry, The Guardian
"An insomniac’s ideal sleep aid―and that’s a compliment. With her collage of ruminations about sleeplessness, [Benjamin] promises no real cure . . . What she offers instead is a rare kind of companionship . . . Her slim book is what the doctor ordered." ―The Atlantic
"A short book of short meditations and explorations of sleeplessness and its discontents from a well-read writer. Buy two and put one in the guest room!" ―Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“Benjamin’s prose is poetic and punchy . . . Insomnia offers a new way of looking at an old disorder.” ―Winnipeg Free Press
"Poetic and insightful, profound and magical, personal and universal, Benjamin nails insomnia in short paragraphs and extended passages . . . This memoir is not an organized narrative that leads to a cure, but rather an honest voice of one who suffers in the dark without sleep." ―Heidi Simmons, Coachella Valley Weekly
"Benjamin’s technique has a nocturnal cast, her night thoughts following their own strange logic, bleeding into one another . . . As Benjamin depicts the experience, the insomniac exists in a liminal state, poised between sleep and waking, light and darkness. She vividly evokes this neither-here-nor-there situation, with its heightened sensitivity to ambient light and sounds . . . If we can learn to be sensible to these liminal states in which thought refuses to follow a linear path, Benjamin suggests, then we can free ourselves from entrenched ways of thinking and open up new possibilities . . . Benjamin boldly points the way toward new and productive ways of living." ―Andrew Schenker, Los Angeles Review of Books
"Insomnia reads like insomnia feels―fluid prose, streaming through Marina Benjamin’s experience of sleeplessness, weaving in insights from literature, art, philosophy, and psychology. It’s an ethereal but profound exploration of our relationship with sleep and darkness, and especially of women’s relationship to sleep―why we’re drawn to cultural depictions of women in deep sleep, what keeps them awake. Benjamin’s connections are lucid and illuminating, and joining her through them feels like sharing a quiet late-night conversation." ―Arianna Rebolini, BuzzFeed
"In sensitive, incantatory prose, Benjamin recounts her lifelong experience with sleeplessness, a cruel effect of the mind’s inability to let the body go . . . Flip to any page of Insomnia. Slip into the current of Benjamin’s wandering thoughts. Stay with her through the night. The memoir, structured like a lengthy, meandering essay, is full of pleasing detours . . . We stay by Benjamin’s side to attend to our own mysteries, our own glimmering darkness." ––Rajat Singh, The Rumpus
"Benjamin's late-night ruminations on the power of sleeplessness, and specifically the relationship women have long had with sleep, are thoughtful and poetic. Benjamin's words will both captivate you and, somehow, allow you to rest easier." ―Samantha Zabell, Apartment Therapy
"Marina Benjamin’s slim book exploring insomnia offers an odd yet captivating journey through the nature of sleep." ―Frannie Jackson, Paste
"Intense, vagrant, and personal . . . Richly stocked with literary references to lack of sleep, its pains and occasional pleasures . . . A book that attempts stylistically to sound like its subject: fragmented, digressive, at times delirious . . . Benjamin gives us the essayistic equivalent of a dead-of-night drift into wakefulness and then beyond into worry, fantasy, and invention. Insomnia ought to be read not as self-help, but as an addition to that venerable philosophic genre, the consolation. It might keep you awake, but in solacing and inquiring company." ―Brian Dillon, 4Columns
"Marina Benjamin confronts insomnia, a sleep disorder that is on the rise. Through her personal experience with insomnia, Benjamin details that it can be used for good, as a a vessel for creativity. That when we can't sleep we are granted valuable insight 'into the unconscious mind.' Interestingly, Insomnia brings attention to the relationship between women and sleep, from Penelope weaving for Odysseus to the stresses that keep modern women awake each night." ―Women.com
"Wakefulness, insomnia’s antithesis, aptly describes the book’s gestures and rhythm. Brief paragraphs, separated by pauses, act as voltages of insight between blank spaces. Throughout the narrative, Benjamin interrogates the ancient mystery behind insomnia, reserving judgment about the possibilities of renewal from what might be considered a curse . . . Insomnia is ultimately a book about the contradictions that permeate our natures. Having enjoyed it and been edified, I will look differently upon a sleepless night and will invite the light that stubbornly refuses to diminish while illuminating the darkness." ―Judith Harris, On the Seawall
"Marina Benjamin's Insomnia is more than a memoir; the book haunts with its journeys into what unsettles us in the night." ― Largehearted Boy
"A capacious, lyrical meditation on her elusive quest for sleep . . . A vivid portrayal of wakefulness that will strike a chord of recognition in many readers." ―Kirkus Reviews
"A beautiful blend of material, written in short sections that are artfully woven together. Fellow insomniacs will be particularly drawn to this book, but really it’s a book for anyone who likes beautiful, idea-driven prose. Benjamin digs deeply into the subject and asks questions and draws conclusions that feel fresh and vital." ―Rebecca Hussey, Book Riot, 1 of 5 Small-Press Books You Won't Want to Miss
"Every insomniac knows how sleeplessness warps and deforms reality. Marina Benjamin anatomizes its endless nights and red-eyed mornings, finding a sublime language for this strange state of lack. Her writing is often reminiscent of Anne Carson: beautiful, jagged, and precise." ―Olivia Laing, author of The Lonely City
"An exquisite meditation on time, the dark hours, and the complexities of longtime love, Insomnia is a poetic journey into the wide-awake, generous, exciting mind of Marina Benjamin. I couldn't put it down, and my own inner world is richer for it." ―Dani Shapiro, author of Hourglass
“A sublime view of the treasures and torments to be found in wakefulness. Entertaining and existential, the brightest star in this erudite, nocturnal reverie in search of lost sleep is the beauty of the writing itself.” ―Deborah Levy, author of Hot Milk
"Benjamin writes beautifully. This is a graceful rumination on the 'wicked kind of trespass' that is insomnia, a work cogent and allusive as a lucid dream, a palimpsest of insights to dip into, day or night." ―Anna Funder, author of Stasiland
Praise for The Middlepause (2017)
“In The Middlepause Benjamin deftly and brilliantly examines the losses and unexpected gains she experienced in menopause. . . . Menopause is a mind and body shift as monumental and universal as puberty, yet far less often discussed, especially in public, which is what makes Benjamin’s work here so urgently necessary.” ―Kate Tuttle, The Los Angeles Times
“Eloquent and intelligent. . . . A measured and beautifully written critique of menopause and middle age that pre-, mid-, and postmenopausal women will find eminently relatable, and that those who love and care for them will likewise appreciate.” ―Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“In [her] piercingly intelligent and bracingly honest memoir, The Middlepause: On Life After Youth, Marina Benjamin, on the brink of fifty, resolves not to run but to take stock and wrestle with the meaning of aging instead. . . .The Middlepause feels wholly original.” ―Barbara Spindel, Barnes and Noble Review
“Women do a lot of things to mark turning fifty. Go to a resort! Have a bang-up party! Far, far better: read The Middlepause.” ―Jill Lepore, staff writer for The New Yorker and author of The Secret History of Wonder Woman
“We are not supposed to beguile, we the middle-aged women. But with The Middlepause, Marina Benjamin does that: she beguiles and entrances with a lyrical, thoughtful, erudite, and always lucid exploration of the middle years of her life, and what they mean to her, and what middle-aged women mean to society.” ―Rose George, author of Ninety Percent of Everything and The Big Necessity
“Intimate, open-hearted, clever and kind, this book is a companion which, by naming the shadow fears, finds the truer gold.” ―Jay Griffiths, author of The Wild: An Elemental Journey
“While The Middlepause is indeed intellectual and cultivated, Benjamin also speaks directly to a sense of communal, lived experience. . . . She writes so perceptively about the familiar that she effortlessly freshens and elevates it.” ―Isabel Berick, Financial Times
“I loved this candid and beautifully written 'wrinkles and all' meditation on the middle years.” ―Caroline Sanderson, The Bookseller, “Editor's Choice”
“For emotional honesty, look to a midlife memoir from Marina Benjamin.” ―Tom Gatti, The New Statesman, “The books to look out for in 2016”
“Lucid and sophisticated. . . . The Middlepause is a restrained but wonderful guide to the convulsive changes of 50 and over. . . . This is a book that yields valuable insights on almost every page.” ―Melissa Benn, The Guardian
“This book does not contain advice on diet, yoga, emollients or wardrobe makeovers. Marina Benjamin instead pursues an intellectual perspective of her journey to 50. . . . As a means of inducting younger women into the business of getting older, this is a welcome narrative.” ―Deirdre Conroy, Irish Independent
“Benjamin has written an addictive antidote to saccharine wellness tomes. Beautifully composed and intensely sympathetic, The Middlepause is wry, personal and intimate, while still being something of a road map for others. . . . It all adds up to a pleasing and addictive read which is really about facing our own mortality, in the company of a spirited, clever and well-read friend who is never going to give up on herself―and is damned if you'll give up either.” ―Viv Groskop, The Telegraph (UK)
- Item Weight : 11.2 ounces
- Hardcover : 144 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1948226057
- ISBN-13 : 978-1948226059
- Dimensions : 5.6 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
- Publisher : Catapult (November 13, 2018)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #639,683 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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There’s a beautiful section at the beginning describing the different shades of darkness as Benjamin moves wakefully through a sleeping house. There’s a weary accounting of all the remedies she has tried to no avail and a humorous glimpse into the trials of cognitive-behavioural therapy. There’s a discussion on beds and bedrooms through the ages including the nocturnal conversations and books and even haircuts which Pepys describes undertaking in his.
Like the wakeful mind in the early hours, she roves between these subjects, each assuming its own importance, just as, before dawn, fear of the coming climate apocalypse and the cutting remark of a colleague in the staff kitchenette can assume an equal, terrible weight.
As a long-time insomniac, many things here resonated with me – the odd reversal where you feel alert at night but barely able to function by day, a ghost in your own life. The endless running monologue in your head. Despite it all, an odd ambivalence – a sense that those wakeful nights are free of constraint and that without them something might be lost.
Benjamin quotes a line from the medieval Islamic poet Rumi: ‘every human being streams at night into the loving nowhere’. Is it that ‘nowhere’ that our mind fears? Is that the reason behind its insistent chatter?
If you’re an insomniac, you will find much here that you recognise and perhaps some reassurance that you are not alone. If you are not, it will offer some insight into the frazzled mind of any bleary-eyed ghosts in your life.
I received a copy of Insomnia from the publisher.
This book documents the author Marina Benjamin's battle and experience with insomnia.
There are shades of Sick: A Memoir by Porochista Khakpour - Benjamin struggles with this constantly, but keeps you turning the page.
There are shades of The Noonday Demon by Andrew Solomon - Benjamin has a difficult time with her syndrome, yet still manages to produce a quality book.
But this book has its own style
There are no chapters. There are just three or so paragraph chunks of insight, each one fading into the next. You can group the insights by theme, but like a night spent awake - each does fade into the next, and makes a continuous stream.
But the whole does add up - it adds up to something absolutely incredible, and absolutely unique.
I recommend this to just about everyone.