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Drowned at Midday

The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2015.

By Ian Penmam

… 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.

Another common problem with “the literature” is that people too often have a position — pro-Prozac, anti-analysis — to push. Solomon maintains a sharply perplexed outlook: he needles away at depression as if it was some malign multinational — Melancholia, Inc — always getting away with unaccountable intrusions into innocent lives. There’s an almost thriller-ish pulse as he sorts through competing theories: is the villain neuro-chemistry or misapplied nurture? Personal hubris or unbiddable fate? All the signs seem to point to it being as simple — depressingly simple — as plain bad luck.

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. … When you are truly depressed, eloquence counts for nothing: your mind has more in common with 5am TV static than the prose of Bernhardt or Beckett. That Solomon has shaped a richly eloquent testament from his own seasons in hell kindles something like hope in this unhappy reader. 

(To read the full review, please visit The Guardian.)