The Noonday Demon
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Date: February 2012
Duration: 23 hours 58 minutes
The Noonday Demon is an examination of depression written in the first and third person. Drawing on the author's own experience of the illness, medical literature, interviews with hundreds of other sufferers, doctors, policy makers, drug designers, scientists, sociologists, philosophers, lawyers, politicians, and many other sources, the book reveals depression at both the personal and the cultural level. The first part of the book is about what constitutes depression and how people deal with it. Chapters confront the problems of defining the illness; breakdowns and their immediate consequences; biochemical and psychodynamic treatments; alternative treatments from the experimental to the wacky; special populations including the elderly, women, racial minorities, etc.; addiction and its bearing on depression; and suicide as an issue distinct from depression. The second part of the book examines the current state of the complaint; the problem of depression among the poor; the politics of the illness at both the legislative and the bureaucratic level; the evolutionary perspective on the disease; and the moral questions posed by biological explanations of mental illness. The book ultimately looks at the boundary between disease and personality, demonstrating that we are narrowing our definition of mental health and thereby causing mental illness. It also examines the matter of character, showing that recovery from mental illness involves not only biological treatment, but also strength, endurance, will, and love.
Solomon's contribution to an understanding both of depression and of the human condition is absolutely stunning. He balances his astonishingly lucid and candid account of his own experience with profound empathy and insight into the experiences of other depressives -- some from similar backgrounds, some unutterably different -- and with a truly agile navigation of the relevant fields of study from pychopharmocology to philosophy. Like Simon Schama or Jacques Barzun or Robert Hughes, he uses a single lens -- depression -- to shape a sweeping work of immense cultural significance.