by Mary Ann Hughes
In addition to the self-help and parental advice genres is the literary and philosophical study of depression that harks back to Richard Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy. The Noonday Demon, based on an article that Solomon wrote for The New Yorker in 1998, is such a book. The backbone of this superb work is the author’s narrative of his own struggles with severe depression — his musings on its multifarious causes and on the role that his privileged socioeconomic status has played in its successful management. Solomon also interviewed scores of other depression sufferers about their trials with treatment and visited Africa, Greenland, and Cambodia in search of different cultural perspectives. This journalistic approach allows Solomon to convey a great deal of information in the form of fascinating, if sometimes horrific, life stories. This compassionate work that never simplifies complex matters is essential for all collections.