Marina Benjamin's Insomnia is part memoir and part philosophical inquiry. A lyrical personal narrative into a condition that is on the rise, it treats insomnia as an experience, not a disorder, drawing on its influences on the arts and sciences throughout history, as well as on Benjamin's own life.
Marina Benjamin, a memoirist and an editor at Aeon magazine, has produced an insomniac’s ideal sleep aid—and that’s a compliment ... For sleepless readers familiar with the feeling of being trapped in anxious ruts, Benjamin’s celebration of mind wandering as 'fleet and light and connective' may at times sound strained. But if her roaming induces fatigue now and then, her 'border-crossing bravery' and curiosity prove highly contagious. Either way, her slim book is what the doctor ordered.
This would be a terrible thing to say about most books but, in this case, it might actually be a compliment: I kept falling asleep reading Marina Benjamin's Insomnia. I wasn't so much bored as somehow soothed by her velvety ruminations on night wakefulness, which run on, unbroken by chapters, with lots of airy white space between paragraphs. Awash in the comfort of a kindred soul, I relaxed enough to be lulled into sleep ... Benjamin's book is more impressionistic than scientific: Don't look here for an explanation of the chemistry or biology of nocturnal wakefulness.
Marina Benjamin’s intense, vagrant, and personal book Insomnia is a timely arrival. But unlike the pop-science studies of sleep professionals...Insomnia wants to know what we might learn from our failure to sleep, from 'lurid nights' and 'enervating mania' ... Benjamin’s book is richly stocked with literary references to lack of sleep, its pains and occasional pleasures ... Her prose is written in sharp poetic fragments, and resembles in places the mordant aphorisms of E. M. Cioran, the Romanian philosopher who was reputed not to have slept for fifty years ... Benjamin has written a book that attempts stylistically to sound like its subject: fragmented, digressive, at times delirious ... This might be less, or more, than the sleepless reader wishes to hear. Benjamin’s approach to her subject is deliberately at odds with the current popular literature on sleep and its discontents ... It might keep you awake, but in solacing and inquiring company.