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The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression Paperback – May 19, 2015
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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
Calling depression the "flaw of love," 2001 National Book Award-winner Solomon (A Stone Boat) brings a stunning breadth of research to this widely misunderstood and often stigmatized illness. At least 19 million Americans suffer from chronic depression, and Solomon concedes its diagnosis and treatment are as complex as the illness. The eloquent, cerebral prose distinguishing his book (the writing of which, he says, consumed his life for five years), is mirrored in Solomon's equally articulate and refined reading style, marked by traces of a crisp British accent and a consistent, soothing tone. While outlining the major treatments, Solomon's discussion covers brain chemistry, the classes of antidepressants and their possible effects and efficacy rates, as well as the successful resurgence of electroshock therapy, talk therapy, surgical options and alternative therapies (e.g., herbal, homeopathic and hypnosis). Some laypersons may find the audio format ill-adapted for this technical portion. However, Solomon's unequivocal candor about his own at times incapacitating struggle with depression, and the compassionate, hopeful perspective he conveys more than makes up for this. Loaded with personal anecdotes, snippets of letters, interviews and recalled conversations with fellow sufferers, this audio creates a sense of intimacy many listeners may find therapeutic.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
He concludes by describing depression as, not a single disease, but as a cluster of symptoms stemming from many different causes; thus the doctor's conundrum about tweaking treatments until finding a suitable one. He emphasizes the importance of correctly diagnosing and treating this condition to prevent suicide, and discusses moral views about how responsible one is or is not for one's own listlessness. His history of how depression has been viewed and treated historically is fascinating. During the nineteenth century, when it was called "melancholia," it was common and even fashionable among artists and writers. He examines broad social issues about how to best treat the under-diagnosed poor, and writes candidly about mental institutions. He interviewed many patients, and his main focus is on how the disease tramples down the daily lives of its victims, and on what kinds of treatments work. He explores conventional medicine and also alternative treatments, and concludes that whatever makes the person feel better is the key, because feeling better is the goal. He concludes that we are in the dark ages as to knowing which medications should work for which people, but there is an overall hopeful message that successful treatments can help people with depression to live long and productive lives.
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As expected, there are some 1 star reviews by people who a) Are fighting an ideological war against biological psychiatry (usually Scientologists) or were b) expecting a "self-help" book. If you are thinking of buying The Noonday Demon as a self-help book, put it down now and look elsewhere (I recommend The Untethered Soul for this if you are looking for a self-help book).
I am frankly amazed at some of the 1 star reviews claiming that Solomon is pushing antidepressants onto the depressed. I found the entire book incredibly balanced. The only scathing comment I found was a (deserved) disparaging comment regarding Peter Breggin. The book features a range of positive, neutral and negative experiences regarding drug treatments. It mentions people getting helped by herbal treatments.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This may be the best, most enlightening, most thought provoking nonfiction I've read. Thank you, Mr. Solomon.