The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression
There have been many books published about depression of late, and I've read a good many of them. Some of them are quite informative and sane, such as The Depression Sourcebook by Brian Quinn (McGraw-Hill, 2000), which I read because, guess what? I was fucking depressed! Like Goya, whose work appears on the cover of Andrew Solomon's award-winning tome, championed on its back cover by Styron and pretty much every other living best-selling writer who has also admitted to being depressed. Hell, I'm surprised Scribner didn't include retroactive praise from such depression-ridden luminaries as Michaelangelo, Beethoven, William Blake, Churchill, and Kurt Cobain.
I've heard Solomon's pieces in magazines like The New Yorker as well as his works of fiction are pretty good. I wouldn't know—haven't read them. Ain't going to. Because the book that did the job for this reviewer is the present volume, which is truly a comic masterpiece, all the way down to Solomon's distorted visage on the back cover leaflet.
I bought it because I was experiencing seasonal depression in December, and because it has a yellow cover, and I rather tend to like the color yellow. Actually, I shoplifted it, but that's a different story. Anyway, while this book is not about depression, but rather about Andrew Solomon, the fellow has constructed a character, also named Andrew Solomon, who had me turning pages like a madman long into the night, roaring with laughter, and pissing myself in my girlfriend's bed. Shit, now I'm happy and upbeat and I'm running track! If you're depressed, or if anyone close to you is depressed, you will not be once you read this first-person account of a man who is way, way more fucked up than you, me, Robert Downey Jr., or the narrator of The Benny Poda Years.
Solomon goes on at length about all the psychosomatic drugs he's addicted to. How he loves benzos, and also E, coke, and he's a heavy drinker. He tells the reader that he wants to find a powder that makes him feel like Wayne Gretzky, even though he has to snort it five times a day.
He rambles, disjointedly, for 571 pages, one contradictory belly-laugh after another, until you finally GET IT . . . he's joking! He's a goddamn genius! Shit, in the very first section he talks about how his very own Daddy is the U.S. distributor of the antidepressant Celexa, and as such he won't talk about that particular drug theoretically . . . and then he up and does it, on page 192! He denies it has certain side effects, which in fucking fact it DOES, as I can tell you since I weaned myself off that evil shit with massive side effects this past month for the first time since I was married to the Jewish Ballerina in the Book. I was roaring. My chest was tight and I couldn't breathe.
Solomon gets all manic on drugs and starts quoting verse in places, from people like Keats and Edna St. Vincent Millay, who was also depressed (Nancy Milford's new bio. on her is terrific), and then he tells you he wrote what he just wrote or quoted because he was amped up on psychomeds! Jesus! He's on Zyprexa, he says. Don't take it. Don't take it, Dear reader.
But for the sake of God, you've gotta read this book to believe it. It'll send pleasure signals up and out the ass of your brain, and you won't need a whore, you won't need no booze! Won't need a virgin priest! Or even someone you can cry to! I was Waiting on a Friend, and Andy Solomon's character's done more for me than any character since fucking Holden Caulfield.
Two thumbs and a dick, way, way up. Andrew Solomon is the finest comic Master writing in English since they translated Revelations from the Hebrew. Get it. The world will no longer be on your Shoulders.