Like Primo Levi's The Periodic Table, The Noonday Demon digs deep into personal history, as Andrew Solomon narrates, brilliantly and terrifyingly, his own agonising experience of depression. Solomon also portrays the pain of others, in different cultures and societies whose lives have been shattered by depression and uncovers the historical, social, biological, chemical and medical implications of this crippling disease. He takes us through the halls of mental hospitals where some of his subjects have been imprisoned for decades; into the research labs; to the burdened and afflicted poor, rural and urban. He talks to faith healers and voyages around the world in a quest for folk wisdom. He analyses the medications of today as well as reviewing the politics of diagnosis and treatment and, perhaps most significantly, he looks at the vital role of will and love in the process of recovery.
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(216mm x 135mm x 40mm)
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
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UK Kirkus Review »
The title has its roots in the Bible: 'the destruction that wasteth at noonday'. The destruction is depression and this book is the author's lengthy and painstaking attempt to understand it. Five years in the writing of it, he sometimes typed only a page at a time and then had to take to his bed. It's unclear when depression triggers life events and when life events trigger depression. The author's own breakdown came at a time when he felt he had solved his problems. Forced to dig in search of its roots, he suggests that a severe depression may have been preceded by several smaller depressions that passed unnoticed. Beyond a certain point it could be that depression takes off under its own steam and becomes random. Eventually you find you are simply absent from yourself and faced with the tremendous task of somehow trying to reclaim your personality. These insights were not easily gained. Solomon reveals some of the more shocking efforts he made to end his own depressions, including his attempts to catch HIV so that he could kill himself. He haunted local parks engaging in 'unsafe episodes' with other men for three months, until he realised that he could unwittingly kill a stranger. He was driven to try cocaine, opium and Ecstasy. He provides a comprehensive analysis of the various classes of anti-depressant medication available and a whole chapter is devoted to an astonishing range of alternatives - New Age massage, hypnosis, outward bound courses, group therapies and EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing). The author even tries a West African 'ndeup' ceremony for mental illness where he was required to lie beneath a live ram and submit to being covered in blood. At the end he was told: 'You are free of your spirits, they have left you.' The question is not so much whether there is help available, but of how to choose amongst depression's 'thousand therapies'. In the ancient world, depression was seen as a Hippocratic illness of the brain. Today, opinion is split between psychiatry which views it as an integral part of the individual and attempts to change thought patterns, and psychopharmacology where it is regarded as a chemical imbalance that can be corrected without reference to context or personality. Solomon argues that both are necessary. He remains on a cocktail of pills while continuing to see a therapist. This dogged and at times desperate search for respite from depression will burrow under every reader's skin. (Kirkus UK)
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Author Biography - Andrew Solomon
Andrew Solomon is a highly regarded academic and journalist on politics, culture and psychology. He's lectured widely at Harvard, Yale, Cambridge, Stanford amongst others, and writes regularly for The New Yorker, Newsweek, Guardian. His highly acclaimed international study of depression, The Noonday Demon won the 2001 National Book Award and was a finalist for the 2002 Pulitzer Prize.