“Andrew Solomon,” declared Pico Iyer in his introduction of his acclaimed guest in the fourth and final installment of this season’s Speaking with Pico series, “is a voice of elevation.” And indeed, the author of The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression, Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity, and Far and Away: Reporting from the Brink of Change, spoke with stunning eloquence about his travels in Afghanistan, Libya, Russia, China, and Senegal. Though he had a privileged and sheltered upbringing in New York City, Solomon suffered from anxiety in childhood and adolescence, and he has endured debilitating depression in adulthood. Solomon learned to walk straight into places and situations where he felt stripped down to his essence.
As always, Pico Iyer guided the conversation masterfully without resorting to a single note, from travel to understanding and treating depression to what constitutes a family unit to who the author turns to for sustenance (William James, Virginia Woolf), and the impact Solomon’s coming out as a gay man had on his traditional parents, particularly his mother.
When asked what gives him hope in these dark times, Solomon said he is often inspired by the idealism of young people. Resilience and hope are at the core of Andrew Solomon’s prodigious body of work, as is valuing differences, not merely tolerating them.