... get past the icky profiles that have attended Andrew Solomon - Prozac's doe-eyed poster boy - and you find an exemplary text. Solomon is one of those New Yorker-trained writers who can charm the peacocks onto the lawn with mere statistical ballast; he is acutely aware of the contradictions at every turn of his tale, and the investigative reporter in him overrides the easier impulse to self-dramatisation. His own pain serves as a conduit to wider quandaries, where too many writers remain hypnotised by the dark mirror of disclosure ... Solomon is scrupulously inclusive - like a wise Narcotics Anonymous chairperson, who leads strangers straight to the most pertinent part of their story, the parts of speech that are both messily singular and chimingly common. The Noonday Demon is formidably well researched: Solomon has a particularly keen touch with quotations and the testimony of others, building up a rich polylogue where other writers have settled for stark midnight soliloquy ... takes what is a depressingly familiar tale, and makes it speak lessons of far wider import.
... exhaustively researched, provocative and often deeply moving ... Readers should not be discouraged by the opening chapter, titled Depression, which is the least coherent chapter in the book, lurching from point to point as if awaiting a principle of inspired organization that never arrives ... Even when writing more or less straightforward journalism, Solomon writes engagingly; his style is intimate and anecdotal, and often bemused ... Amid so much information, the author might have been more discriminating and skeptical ... a considerable accomplishment. It is likely to provoke discussion and controversy, and its generous assortment of voices, from the pathological to the philosophical, makes for rich, variegated reading. Solomon leaves us with the enigmatic statement that 'depression seems to be a peculiar assortment of conditions for which there are no evident boundaries' -- exactly like life.
... an elegantly written, meticulously researched book that is empathetic and enlightening, scholarly and useful ... In these confessional times, it would have been easy for Solomon to limit himself to a personal memoir. But he uses his story as a springboard for a wide-ranging discussion about depression ... Solomon apologizes that 'no book can span the reach of human suffering.' This one comes close.
The book's honesty is both fueled and exemplified by [Solomon's] accounts of his own major depressive episodes, which are by no means self-indulgent but allow fellow-sufferers to know they are not alone, and allow non-sufferers to gain some idea of the agony of the condition ... This, to my knowledge, is now the definitive lay text on the subject. Solomon charts the history, the science, and even the philosophy of depression with an industry and thoroughness that must have been hell for him to achieve ... as Solomon himself says at one point, those who read The Noonday Demon carefully will learn how to be depressed. But that's no reason not to read it. Knowledge, in this instance, is most certainly power.
... outstanding ... wonderfully well written ... because [Solomon] has the gift of the gab he is seldom boring, wherever you choose to open a page. He has gone the extra mile, too. Though from a comfortable metropolitan background himself, he has talked to Inuit people in Greenland and to trauma survivors in Cambodia, as well as to horrifically deprived depressed patients in poor regions of the United States ... the best yet written on the illness of ingrained sorrow ... raises questions about suffering that have been with us at least since the Book of Job. [The] book can't answer them, of course, but it can make the reader think about the puzzles of being human; about whether suffering can be endured, about when courage works and when it fails to.
... not for the suggestible ... Besides being unwaveringly honest about himself, Solomon introduces a gallery of tormented friends and acquaintances who personalize the many forms depression can take. His anatomizing of melancholy strikes a balance between the systematic, in which he compartmentalizes historic, scientific and demographic facts, and the anecdotal, through which he conveys the oppressive weight of the malady. Despite the dead-ends that victims and researchers of depression continue to encounter, Solomon ends his book with a chapter bravely called 'Hope.' That quality, he shows, resides less in the glacially slow advances of drugs and psychiatry than in a recurring human condition that is as tenacious and mysterious as depression itself: the will to live.
Even judged solely by the standards of the memoir, The Noonday Demon is remarkably self-indulgent. As an 'atlas,' it depicts a world view whose cardinal points are me, myself and I. It is difficult to criticize a book in which the author repeatedly reminds the reader of the harrowing mental anguish experienced while writing it; critical reproaches are, one fears, the epitome of kicking someone while he's down. And yet few books on depression deserve to be criticized as much as this one, all the more because it is poised to become definitive ... Solomon can be commended for undertaking what was undoubtedly intensive research, and for even attempting to tackle the profusion of forms depression takes, reaching into the realms of biology, philosophy, politics, gender and -- a category often ignored -- class. His chapters on these subjects handily summarize much of the existing literature, and give some context to the many debates that depression raises...But the presentation of this data suffers from Solomon's extraordinary ability to make any given piece of information relate to him ... The pseudo-clinical manner of these proclamations reaches a disturbing apogee when Solomon, again using himself as the prism through which all meaning is refracted, discusses the connection between violence and depression ... More than by its omissions and its persistent defects of tone, The Noonday Demon is undone by Solomon's resolutely narrow method of inquiry ... part of recovering from depression, and part of keeping it at bay, is coming to terms with pain and suffering as a human experience, not just one's own.
... address with spectacular clarity the ways in which depression steals lives away, leaving its prey bereft of their very selves. Despite the occasional cliché and heavy metaphor, Solomon’s prose illuminates a dark topic through the unfolding tales of his sources and his own life story; by allowing the voices of those who battle depression to speak, rich and varied pictures of daily struggle, defeat, and triumph ultimately emerge. The author deserves kudos as well both for the geographical span of his account and for its historical sweep. Paradoxically, the completeness of Solomon’s vision undermines his readability: so much suffering fills these pages that, at times, it’s all a bit too much darkness. Nevertheless, the importance of the work becomes virtually self-evident when Solomon addresses such topics as the cultural denial of depression, masculine fears of seeking treatment, strengths and weaknesses of various treatments, the salutary effect of diet and exercise on depression, the high cost of treatment, and chronic depression among the elderly ... So good, so vitally important, but so . . . depressing.
Attempting to put depression and its treatments in a cross-cultural context, [Solomon] draws effectively and skillfully on medical studies, historical and sociological literature, and anecdotal evidence ... Smart, empathetic and exhibiting a wide and resonant knowledge of the topic, Solomon has provided an enlightening and sobering window onto both the medical and imaginative worlds of depression.