Darkness at Noon

By Fowler, Alice | The Mail on Sunday (London, England), April 8, 2001 | Go to article overview

Darkness at Noon


Fowler, Alice, The Mail on Sunday (London, England)


Byline: ALICE FOWLER

Few people know depression with such cruel intimacy as Andrew Solomon.

Three times in the past seven years he has endured severe breakdowns. Then, as he struggled to keep his illness at bay, he began to explore it from a different, more scientific perspective. A graduate of Yale and Cambridge, he researched depression with academic rigour: his own and other people's, across time and cultures. The result is a book, The Noonday Demon, which combines philosophical, medical and historical insights with the most intimate personal revelation. It is a painfully honest, sometimes shocking account of how a charismatic, intellectually brilliant young man dealt with an illness so devastating that it almost killed him.

Published next month, the book examines the social and medical realities of depression, and the drugs intended to control it. It tells the stories of others, in different cultures and societies, whose lives have been shattered by the disease. Against this comprehensive background, Solomon's own experiences, described with unforgiving honesty, take on a deeper resonance.

Few books are as powerful or as controversial, as distressing or, at times, as wryly humorous.

It is for these qualities that The Noonday Demon is poised to become a classic of our time: a key text for a generation that, more than any other, has depression at its core. Waiting to meet its author, you cannot help but feel something approaching trepidation. Reading his book, I already feel I have explored some of the deepest, most anguished regions of his mind: from the sleepless nights in which he hugged his pillow for comfort, through the moment he assisted in his mother's death, to his deliberate, bizarre quest to become HIV positive.

Rarely have I known so much of the inner turmoil of someone I have never met.

So, when Solomon arrives, bouncing into my hotel room in suit and tie, it is almost a relief. At 37, dark-haired and dapper, he exudes quick-witted energy. For one so afflicted by depression, he seems - on the surface, anyway - utterly functional.

To those who have never experienced it, Solomon acknowledges, that overpowering bleakness is hard to comprehend. 'The closest you'll feel is if you wake up from a frightening dream in the small hours of the morning. It's that panic and confusion that dissipates when you turn the light on. Imagine that, but that it is extended over time.'

The title of his book is a quotation from the Bible's 90th or 91st psalm (depending on the translation) which describes how other demons come to you at midnight, but depression is the demon that visits you even at noon.

Born into a middle-class family in New York, he was a highly intelligent child and went on to study at Yale. He then took an English degree at Jesus College, Cambridge - 'a blissful time of my life' - where he gained the top first in his year. He loved Britain, and stayed on in London, becoming art sales correspondent for Harpers & Queen. His first book, a study of Soviet artists during Glasnost, was published.

Then, at the start of his thirties, depression set in. In the book, he describes how, emerging from his illness, he was reminded of a vine that entwines and saps the strength of a great oak. 'It had been a sucking thing that had wrapped itself around me, ugly and grotesque and more alive than I,' he writes.

'It had had a life of its own that bit by bit asphyxiated all of my life out of me. Its tendrils threatened to pulverise my mind and my courage and my stomach, and crack my bones and desiccate my body. It went on glutting itself on me when there seemed nothing left to feed it.'

For Solomon, drug therapy was the salvation that hacked through the vines.

Even now, two years on from his third breakdown, he relies on drugs to prevent a relapse. His 'little cocktail of anti- depressants' are mostly SSRIs (selective serotin-reuptake inhibitors), in the same family as Prozac. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Darkness at Noon
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.