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The Noonday Demon
Cover of The Noonday Demon
The Noonday Demon
An Atlas Of Depression
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With uncommon humanity, candor, wit, and erudition, National Book Award winner Andrew Solomon takes the listener on a journey of incomparable range and resonance into the most pervasive of family secrets.
The Noonday Demon examines depression in personal, cultural, and scientific terms. Drawing on his own struggles with the illness and interviews wit fellow sufferers, doctors and scientists, policymakers and politicians, drug designers and philosophers, Solomon reveals the subtle complexities and sheer agony of the disease. He confronts the challenge of defining the illness and describes the vast range of available medications, the efficacy of alternative treatments, and the impact the malady has had on various demographic populations around the world and throughout history. He also explores the thorny patch of moral and ethical questions posed by emerging biological explanations for mental illness.
The depth of human experience Solomon chronicles, the range of his intelligence, and his boundless curiosity and compassion will change the listener's view of the world.
With uncommon humanity, candor, wit, and erudition, National Book Award winner Andrew Solomon takes the listener on a journey of incomparable range and resonance into the most pervasive of family secrets.
The Noonday Demon examines depression in personal, cultural, and scientific terms. Drawing on his own struggles with the illness and interviews wit fellow sufferers, doctors and scientists, policymakers and politicians, drug designers and philosophers, Solomon reveals the subtle complexities and sheer agony of the disease. He confronts the challenge of defining the illness and describes the vast range of available medications, the efficacy of alternative treatments, and the impact the malady has had on various demographic populations around the world and throughout history. He also explores the thorny patch of moral and ethical questions posed by emerging biological explanations for mental illness.
The depth of human experience Solomon chronicles, the range of his intelligence, and his boundless curiosity and compassion will change the listener's view of the world.
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    Chapter One: Depression

    Depression is the flaw in love. To be creatures who love, we must be creatures who can despair at what we lose, and depression is the mechanism of that despair. When it comes, it degrades one's self and ultimately eclipses the capacity to give or receive affection. It is the aloneness within us made manifest, and it destroys not only connection to others but also the ability to be peacefully alone with oneself. Love, though it is no prophylactic against depression, is what cushions the mind and protects it from itself. Medications and psychotherapy can renew that protection, making it easier to love and be loved, and that is why they work. In good spirits, some love themselves and some love others and some love work and some love God: any of these passions can furnish that vital sense of purpose that is the opposite of depression. Love forsakes us from time to time, and we forsake love. In depression, the meaninglessness of every enterprise and every emotion, the meaninglessness of life itself, becomes self-evident. The only feeling left in this loveless state is insignificance.

    Life is fraught with sorrows: no matter what we do, we will in the end die; we are, each of us, held in the solitude of an autonomous body; time passes, and what has been will never be again. Pain is the first experience of world-helplessness, and it never leaves us. We are angry about being ripped from the comfortable womb, and as soon as that anger fades, distress comes to take its place. Even those people whose faith promises them that this will all be different in the next world cannot help experiencing anguish in this one; Christ himself was the man of sorrows. We live, however, in a time of increasing palliatives; it is easier than ever to decide what to feel and what not to feel. There is less and less unpleasantness that is unavoidable in life, for those with the means to avoid. But despite the enthusiastic claims of pharmaceutical science, depression cannot be wiped out so long as we are creatures conscious of our own selves. It can at best be contained -- and containing is all that current treatments for depression aim to do.

    Highly politicized rhetoric has blurred the distinction between depression and its consequences -- the distinction between how you feel and how you act in response. This is in part a social and medical phenomenon, but it is also the result of linguistic vagary attached to emotional vagary. Perhaps depression can best be described as emotional pain that forces itself on us against our will, and then breaks free of its externals. Depression is not just a lot of pain; but too much pain can compost itself into depression. Grief is depression in proportion to circumstance; depression is grief out of proportion to circumstance. It is tumbleweed distress that thrives on thin air, growing despite its detachment from the nourishing earth. It can be described only in metaphor and allegory. Saint Anthony in the desert, asked how he could differentiate between angels who came to him humble and devils who came in rich disguise, said you could tell by how you felt after they had departed. When an angel left you, you felt strengthened by his presence; when a devil left, you felt horror. Grief is a humble angel who leaves you with strong, clear thoughts and a sense of your own depth. Depression is a demon who leaves you appalled.

    Depression has been...

About the Author-
  • Andrew Solomon is a professor of psychology at Columbia University, president of PEN American Center, and a regular contributor to The New Yorker, NPR, and The New York Times Magazine. A lecturer and activist, he is the author of Far and Away: Essays from the Brink of Change: Seven Continents, Twenty-Five Years; the National Book Critics Circle Award-winner Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity, which has won thirty additional national awards; and The Noonday Demon; An Atlas of Depression, which won the 2001 National Book Award, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and has been published in twenty-four languages. He has also written a novel, A Stone Boat, which was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times First Fiction Award and The Irony Tower: Soviet Artists in a Time of Glasnost. His TED talks have been viewed over 10 million times. He lives in New York and London and is a dual national. For more information, visit the author's website at AndrewSolomon.com.
Reviews-
  • AudioFile Magazine An accomplished writer narrates his intimate essay on the world's most pervasive emotional malady. His memoir thoughtfully looks at how people across the globe react to their depressive vulnerabilities and/or their life-draining circumstances. The excellent abridgment looks at all manifestations of depression, from violent acting out to morbid self-loathing, and the author doesn't spare any details in the telling of his own trail of symptoms. But from the authority of these experiences comes a message of limitless hope and a heartfelt urging to never give up when besieged by depression in any of its forms. Read with compelling immediacy, this is an audio you won't forget. T.W. (c) AudioFile 2002, Portland, Maine
  • AudioFile Magazine In this National Book Award winner, novelist Andrew Solomon examines the anatomy of depression--its causes, symptoms, and treatment--while recounting his own battle with a particularly severe case. He writes concisely and gracefully, frequently quoting the many literary melancholics (for example, Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath) who have written about their own pathology. His unapologetic use of clinical vocabulary might be daunting to some were it not for Barrett Whitener's crisp, scrupulous reading. One hears great empathy in his voice, but thankfully, self-pity is absent both from text and interpretation. Even so, the tape may depress the listener at first, though the feeling eventually lifts. This is intentional and a mark of Solomon's artistry, for the malady is often debilitating, sometimes deadly, difficult to treat, and claiming ever more victims. Yet often it is dismissed as temporary or immature or a relatively harmless nuisance. Making one feel it even momentarily reveals how serious depression can be and how valuable the knowledge contained in this volume. Y.R. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award (c) AudioFile 2003, Portland, Maine
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An Atlas Of Depression
Andrew Solomon
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