Presenter of the National Book Awards

National Book Awards Acceptance Speeches

Andrew Solomon, Winner of the 2001 NONFICTION AWARD
for The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression

I have to admit to not having recognized my own words. I was thinking, who wrote that? Who said that? My book is about depression. It is about the difficulties of enduring and living with depression and it's also about things that counteract depression. I would now recommend to all of my readers winning the National Book Award as an extremely efficacious antidepressant.

I think the standard form as I've watched it for years on television for other kinds of awards is to do some thanks. I, of course, thank my wonderful editor, Nan Graham; my agent, Andrew Wylie, who took me on when I had never published a word, very early on; my publisher, Susan Moldow; the head of Scribners publicity, Pat Eisemann; and also and particularly, my father, who is here tonight, who helped me through the depression that became the subject of this book and my very dear friend, John Habich, who has helped me through some of the difficulties of waiting to hear what was going to happen.

I am extremely grateful to all of these people and I will just take a moment, given the time that it is, to comment on depression and September 11th. I think that we have just been through a time when the mental health of the entire nation is challenged. It was one of the things that I joked about with friends when I was working on my book, that we would make such scientific leaps that by the time the book was published there would be no such thing as depression and there would be no readers for what I had written.

But this unfortunately was not to be. In fact, we live in a time when the rates of depression have escalated, when prescriptions for antidepressants are up by between 20% and 25%, when the rates of anxiety have skyrocketed and when also within America we are seeing higher than ever rates of child abuse and domestic violence.

The things that we have been confronted with over this recent period are terrible, terrible things and it is not surprising that in response to those terrible things we have descended into the morass of depression and anxiety. It is also not unnatural when you fall off a ladder that you break your arm, but it is appropriate to do something about it and it is appropriate to do something about the depression and the sadness which have so overwhelmed the United States. Because if we genuinely allow those things to triumph, then, in fact, we will have given way to the will of the terrorists who wanted to destroy not simply the buildings and the lives of the people they eliminated, but also the moral and the courage of this nation.

It seems to me that the depression we have now cries out for treatment and that when we talk about the superior technologies that we have in the current war, we should emphasize not only our military capacities but also our capacities through a variety of therapies, medications, ways of understanding each other--and most profoundly, insights and forms of love--to triumph over the assault that has been made on our understanding of ourselves.

So I hope that this is something that will happen in the United States. It is my dream for this book -- of course, it is a dream that it be read for many years and that it sell many copies -but it's my real dream for this book that it will become unnecessary, and I hope bit by bit we will move forward, and unnecessary is what it will indeed become. I thank you all.