Reading for our Fifteenth Meeting — DEPRESSION


For the next meeting, on March 22, 2016, we will take on the theme of… depression.

Certainly this qualifies as one of the boundary-lines of the human experience, right?

How do we approach the feeling of emotional and moral collapse, in a world without supernatural solace? What are the handholds we can use to grope our way towards recovery from such a state?

Are there any truths to be found when we find ourselves face down in the mud and experience a sense of smallness and nothingness? Religious people talk of humbling themselves before God… What are we humbling ourselves before when we feel low?

Or is depression, properly seen, just a bummer and a “time suck” caused by chemical imbalance?

Let’s start with the writer William Styron’s legendary memoir, DARKNESS VISIBLE: A MEMOIR OF MADNESS. In it (so I have read) Syron lays bare his own harrowing experience of depression.

Also, go find that faded copy of Sylvia Plath’s THE BELL JAR you have in a box somewhere. Please send in other suggestions…

Meanwhile, keep your chins up, as they say.


More reading!

Heather wrote in with some more suggestions for the reading for this month’s discussion. I am going to look at both of them. They are:


In this book, Solomon, who himself suffers from depression, blends personal narrative with detailed research. It is a touchstone in the field of psychology.

THIS CLOSE TO HAPPY by Daphne Merkin.

Published in 2016, this has been widely praised as a searching exploration of the author’s experience of clinical depression.

I would add to these a classic:

THE CRACK-UP by F. Scott Fitzgerald (click on the title for a link to the essays in Esquire magazine).

In his uncannily beautiful sentences Fitzgerald lays bare his self-perceived failures and his hopes for restoration. This raw and honest piece broke ground when it was published in Esquire in 1936, and it still feels fresh today.


Walden sent in a video of a great lecture on depression by Stanford biologist Robert Sapolsky:

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