Insomnia
Insomnia is on the rise. More than a third of all adults report experiencing it, with the figure climbing steeply among those over sixty-five. Marina Benjamin takes on her personal experience of the condition--her struggles with it, her insomniac highs, and her dawning awareness that states of sleeplessness grant us valuable insights into the workings of our unconscious minds. Although insomnia is rarely entirely welcome, Benjamin treats it less as an affliction than as an encounter that she engages with and plumbs. She adds new dimensions to both our understanding of sleep (and going without it) and of night, of how we perceive darkness.Along the way, Insomnia trips through illuminating material from literature, art, philosophy, psychology, pop culture, and more. Benjamin pays particular attention to the relationship between women and sleep--Penelope up all night, unraveling her day's weaving for Odysseus; the Pre-Raphaelite artists' depictions of deeply sleeping women; and the worries that keep contemporary females awake.Insomnia is an intense, lyrical, witty, and humane exploration of a state we too often consider only superficially. "This is the song of insomnia, and I shall sing it," Marina Benjamin declares.

Insomnia Details

TitleInsomnia
Author
ReleaseNov 13th, 2018
PublisherCatapult
ISBN-139781948226059
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Autobiography, Memoir, Health, Science

Insomnia Review

  • Jenny (Reading Envy)
    January 1, 1970
    "When I think of insomnia's wayward rhythms what I picture is this: gaudy insomnia with its wide lapels and toothy grin is the last groover on the dance floor, still going at it after everyone has collapsed in a heap or gone home...."This brilliant mix of memoir, mythology, literature and science is a meditation on too many sleepless nights. Plus the cover sparkles!I spoke about my first experience with this book on Episode 135 of the Reading Envy PodcastThanks to the publisher for sending me a "When I think of insomnia's wayward rhythms what I picture is this: gaudy insomnia with its wide lapels and toothy grin is the last groover on the dance floor, still going at it after everyone has collapsed in a heap or gone home...."This brilliant mix of memoir, mythology, literature and science is a meditation on too many sleepless nights. Plus the cover sparkles!I spoke about my first experience with this book on Episode 135 of the Reading Envy PodcastThanks to the publisher for sending me a copy!
    more
  • Eric Anderson
    January 1, 1970
    We’ve all had those nights when we wake up in some dark hour and can’t get back to sleep no matter what method we use to try to trick ourselves back into unconsciousness. I’ve found watching a good nature or outer space programme can often lull me, but sometimes nothing works. Although I occasionally go through periods when sleeplessness plagues me night after night leaving me exhausted and bleary-eyed throughout the workday, I’ve never considered it to be a serious or chronic problem. But other We’ve all had those nights when we wake up in some dark hour and can’t get back to sleep no matter what method we use to try to trick ourselves back into unconsciousness. I’ve found watching a good nature or outer space programme can often lull me, but sometimes nothing works. Although I occasionally go through periods when sleeplessness plagues me night after night leaving me exhausted and bleary-eyed throughout the workday, I’ve never considered it to be a serious or chronic problem. But other people experience more severe cases that are seriously debilitating – such as my partner who has tried many different treatments. Most books about insomnia offer advice or methods for overcoming it, but what I appreciate so much about Marina Benjamin’s short, impactful and beautifully-written book “Insomnia” is that she approaches the condition from a more philosophical point of view. It’s a deeply personal account because she’s someone who has suffered from insomnia for years and tried just about every scheme out there to sleep better. But rather than write a guidebook she offers a different kind of solace in how we’re all unified by sleep or the lack of it. She draws upon references from mythology, psychology, art and literature to illuminate how we often have an uneasy relationship with our night time selves. Read my full review of Insomnia by Marina Benjamin on LonesomeReader
    more
  • Vincent Scarpa
    January 1, 1970
    “When you cannot get sleep you fall in love with sleep, because desire (thank you, Lacan) is born out of lack. Perhaps there is an inverse relationship here, between the degree of lack and the corresponding degree of love. How much do I love sleep, I wonder. And can sleep love me back? The medieval Islamic poet Rumi seemed to think the relationship might be reciprocal. In ‘The Milk of Millennia’ he wrote: ‘every human being streams at night into the loving nowhere.’ I find it comforting to think “When you cannot get sleep you fall in love with sleep, because desire (thank you, Lacan) is born out of lack. Perhaps there is an inverse relationship here, between the degree of lack and the corresponding degree of love. How much do I love sleep, I wonder. And can sleep love me back? The medieval Islamic poet Rumi seemed to think the relationship might be reciprocal. In ‘The Milk of Millennia’ he wrote: ‘every human being streams at night into the loving nowhere.’ I find it comforting to think that we might stream beyond our bedroom walls at night, like a crystalline liquid (or like data), as though our avatars were flowing toward, then alongside those of others in surging formation while our bodies were at rest. I find it reassuring that nowhere can be a loving place. Although when I am revving in the night hours, Nowhere does not feel especially loving.”This book is fucking fantastic. I will read it many, many more times in this life.
    more
  • Sana
    January 1, 1970
    'She adds new dimensions to both our understanding of sleep (and going without it) and of night, of how we perceive darkness.'Behold, a book written for me
  • Janet
    January 1, 1970
    Marina Benjamin's book is meditation on the inability to sleep, a collection of lyrical paragraphs that explore the unexpected pleasures and isolating frustration of insomnia. Though my bouts with insomnia tend to only last a couple of days (thanks, full moon), I can identify with so much of she writes.
    more
  • Kirsty
    January 1, 1970
    Marina Benjamin's Insomnia, published by Scribe in November 2018, is described as an 'intense, lyrical, witty, and humane exploration of a state we too often consider only superficially.'  In her memoir, Benjamin has 'produced an unsettling account of an unsettling condition that treats our inability to sleep not as a disorder, but as an existential experience that can electrify our understanding of ourselves, and of creativity and love.'  Its blurb points to the way in which Insomnia crosses ge Marina Benjamin's Insomnia, published by Scribe in November 2018, is described as an 'intense, lyrical, witty, and humane exploration of a state we too often consider only superficially.'  In her memoir, Benjamin has 'produced an unsettling account of an unsettling condition that treats our inability to sleep not as a disorder, but as an existential experience that can electrify our understanding of ourselves, and of creativity and love.'  Its blurb points to the way in which Insomnia crosses genre boundaries: 'At once philosophical and poetical, the book ranges widely over history and culture, literature and art, exploring a threshold experience that is intimately involved with trespass and contamination: the illicit importing of day into night.'  Lauded in several reviews on the book's inside cover is the strength and beauty of Benjamin's writing.  Olivia Laing compares it to Anne Carson's, and says of the book: 'Every insomniac knows how sleeplessness warps and deforms reality.  Marina Benjamin anatomises its endless nights and red-eyed mornings, finding a sublime language for this strange state of lack.'  Francis Spufford calls Benjamin 'the Scheherazade of sleeplessness, spinning tale upon tale, insight upon insight, in frayed and astonishing and finally ecstatic leaps.'Benjamin's prose is raw and honest, and there is an impressive amount of polish given to the whole.  Insomnia has been pieced together using a fragmentary style.  Some of Benjamin's entries span a long paragraph; others consist of a single sentence.  Each entry provides a rumination which is, in some way, related to sleeplessness.  The central thread which runs through the whole connects each of the fragments together, and it feels almost as though it comes full-circle.  Benjamin's writing is both sensual and provocative.  At the beginning of Insomnia, whilst she is describing her own experiences with the inability to sleep, she talks of the voluptuous quality of being awake whilst everyone around her is sleeping.  She writes: 'When I am up at night the world takes on a different hue.  It is quieter and closer and there are textures of the dark I have begun paying attention to.  I register the thickening, sense-dulling darkness that hangs velvety as a pall over deep night, and the green-black tincture you get when moisture charges the atmosphere with static.'  She goes on to describe one of the main effects which insomnia has upon her: 'At the velvet end of my insomniac life I am a heavy-footed ghost, moving from one room to another, weary, leaden - there, but also not there.'Benjamin is always aware of herself in time.  She is candid about her experiences with sleeplessness, and is able to give weight and importance to the very early morning, which many of us miss.  'These days,' she tells us, 'my prime time is 4.15 a.m., a betwixt and between time, neither day nor night.  At 4.15 a.m., birds chirrup, foxes scream, and sometimes, when the rotating schedule for landing and take-off from Heathrow Airport collides with my sleeplessness, planes rumble overhead.'  She gives thought, too, to the spaces we share when we sleep: 'To share a bed with someone is to entertain a conversation played out in the language of movement and space.'Benjamin's ideas feel rather profound at times.  She asks, for instance, 'If we insist on defining something in terms of what it annuls then how can we grasp the essence of what is lost when it shows itself?  And how can we tell if there is anything to be gained by its presence?  This is the trouble with insomnia.'  In Insomnia, she probes what insomnia really means, and traces such things as the word's origins, and its interpretations throughout history.  She examines different 'cures' given to those suffering with insomnia, and draws connections between women sufferers, thought to be mad, being sent to live in asylums.  Benjamin moves fluidly between such subjects as religion, mindfulness, nightmares, and ancient folktales, to alchemy, psychology, and representations of the night.Of the collective experience of insomnia, which she points out is little discussed, she writes: 'Like travel, insomnia is an uprooting experience.  You are torn out of sleep like a plant from its native soil, then shaken down so that any clinging vestige of slumber falls away, naked confusion exposed like nerve endings.  Sleep, in its turn, is a matter of gravity.  It pulls you down, beds you in the earth,  burrows you in.  In sleep you connect back to the bedrock that provides nourishment and restorative rest.'Benjamin's book is rich and layered.  Despite covering only 122 pages, she has managed to create a measured and well-structured approach to a condition which needs more attention drawn toward it.  Her ruminations are always of interest, and feel rather thought-provoking, particularly when they draw together feelings which those of us who are not insomniacs are so aware of, and can connect with: 'Insomnia makes an island of you.  It is, bottom line, a condition of profound loneliness.  And not even a dignified loneliness, because in insomnia you are cannibalised by your own gnawing thoughts.'I have never, thankfully, suffered with insomnia, but Benjamin's memoir has given me a real insight into what the experience involves.  I had never before thought that losing sleep would have any positive qualities, but Benjamin's musings have made me reconsider this.  I found Insomnia surprisingly moving at times.
    more
  • C.M. Arnold
    January 1, 1970
    In 2014 I had my absolute worst bout of insomnia. It lasted months. In that time I tried pretty much every "this will help you sleep" routine/supplement/drug known to man. I also read a lot of books about it. I hadn't read a book about insomnia in over four years. And with that pretty cover...I couldn't resist temptation. I want to start by saying this middle of the road rating has a lot to do with my aversion towards purple prose. Am I guilty of it from time to time? Probably. I just can't stan In 2014 I had my absolute worst bout of insomnia. It lasted months. In that time I tried pretty much every "this will help you sleep" routine/supplement/drug known to man. I also read a lot of books about it. I hadn't read a book about insomnia in over four years. And with that pretty cover...I couldn't resist temptation. I want to start by saying this middle of the road rating has a lot to do with my aversion towards purple prose. Am I guilty of it from time to time? Probably. I just can't stand reading it (most of the time). I mean...if it's sporadic and spaced out, I can handle it. Hell, if you put chapters between one purple instance and the next...I might even come to appreciate it. However, reading beautiful, lyrical writing in this book prevented me from relating in certain places. When I was lying awake at 3 a.m. for the 5th night in a row I wasn't considering "the gently shifting penumbra that heralds dawn." I was thinking "f*ck this sh*t."There were other parts where the writing was much more relatable, though. When she expresses jealousy over her dog and other animals who find sleep so easily. When I had insomnia I resented everything and everyone who could sleep. I resented things that didn't need sleep. I probably resented plants. When she likens her racing mind to a Formula One driver tearing up asphalt. When she writes things like this..."In the grip of insomnia I am constitutionally inconsolable."Yup. It was in the crazy little details that I related the most. Like the earplugs passage. It's like, okay, I've successfully muted birds chirping/man snoring/etc, but what about the whooshing sound in my inner ear?I also learned quite a bit from Marina Benjamin. I knew nothing about "choleric personality" prior to this book. Turns out I check the ravenously hungry, wiry, impatient, hot-blooded boxes of this "type" that is prone to sleeplessness. Oh, and I learned about a type of plant I never knew existed...and now kind of want to find.I wasn't into the narrative straying around and veering off into wonderland-like states (which in actuality might have been a double entendre for semi-lucid/in limbo, dreams/thoughts that slip across the sleep deprived's mind when they're just laying there.) I have no idea how we got from Greek gods, to slavery, to philosophers...just topic jumping like crazy. The weird stuff didn't click. When Zzz was introduced I had no idea who he represented. Her husband? Lover? A different side of herself? Is Zzz a metaphor for the sleeping word she has an indignant relationship with? These are the things you have to wonder when a book is written unconventionally. You leave not knowing if it was a man or a metaphor. And this book is unconventional in the way it meanders, doesn't really have paragraphs or chapters, and doesn't appear to hold fast to any rule of writing. Which is fine. If you like that sort of thing. If you suffer from insomnia, you'd probably appreciate this book (to some extent). If you want to better understand insomnia, this book can shed a unique light (to some extent). I'd say you'd be more apt to fully enjoy this book if you are into lyrical prose and alternative writing styles.
    more
  • Diane Hernandez
    January 1, 1970
    Stream-of-consciousness on the topic of Insomnia.Most people, like me, occasionally have trouble sleeping. When lying awake in bed, strange and varied thoughts run willy-nilly through your brain. If those thoughts were put on paper, it would be this book. It contains science, art, philosophy and even mythology related to the sleeping process. Plus it’s meta fun to read about insomnia while suffering from it. However, there is no true conclusion. It’s as if the author finally fell asleep herself. Stream-of-consciousness on the topic of Insomnia.Most people, like me, occasionally have trouble sleeping. When lying awake in bed, strange and varied thoughts run willy-nilly through your brain. If those thoughts were put on paper, it would be this book. It contains science, art, philosophy and even mythology related to the sleeping process. Plus it’s meta fun to read about insomnia while suffering from it. However, there is no true conclusion. It’s as if the author finally fell asleep herself. 3 stars!Thanks to the publisher, Catapult, and Edelweiss+ for an advanced copy.
    more
  • Marc Nash
    January 1, 1970
    Beautifully and poetically written but impressionistic which ultimately draws no conclusions but provides a ton of images to set you thinking. But if you want answers or cures, this won't provide them.
  • Marc Nash
    January 1, 1970
    beautiful & poetic but very impressionistic. ie plenty of things to fire your imagination but no answers or cures!
  • Rhonda Lomazow
    January 1, 1970
    So well written so lyrical in an odd way an ode to Insomnia to the gifts the quiet the dark can bring.As a fellow insomniac I felt an immediate friendship with the author as we travel down the sleepless path,Thanks @edelweiss @catapultpress.
  • Scribe Publications
    January 1, 1970
    Every insomniac knows how sleeplessness warps and deforms reality. Marina Benjamin anatomises its endless nights and red-eyed mornings, finding a sublime language for this strange state of lack. Her writing is often reminiscent of Anne Carson: beautiful, jagged and precise.Olivia Laing, Author of The Lonely CityAn exquisite meditation on time, the dark hours, and the complexities of longtime love, Insomnia is a poetic journey into the wide-awake, generous, exciting mind of Marina Benjamin. I cou Every insomniac knows how sleeplessness warps and deforms reality. Marina Benjamin anatomises its endless nights and red-eyed mornings, finding a sublime language for this strange state of lack. Her writing is often reminiscent of Anne Carson: beautiful, jagged and precise.Olivia Laing, Author of The Lonely CityAn exquisite meditation on time, the dark hours, and the complexities of longtime love, Insomnia is a poetic journey into the wide-awake, generous, exciting mind of Marina Benjamin. I couldn't put it down, and my own inner world is richer for it.Dani Shapiro, Author of HourglassA sublime view of the treasures and torments to be found in wakefulness. Entertaining and existential, the brightest star in this erudite, nocturnal reverie in search of lost sleep, is the beauty of the writing itself.Deborah Levy, Author of Hot MilkMarina Benjamin is the Scheherazade of sleeplessness, spinning tale upon tale, insight upon insight, in frayed and astonishing and finally ecstatic loops.Francis Spufford, Author of Golden HillBenjamin writes beautifully. This is a graceful rumination on the ‘wicked kind of trespass’ that is insomnia, a work cogent and allusive as a lucid dream, a palimpsest of insights to dip into, day or night.Anna Funder, Author of Stasiland and All That I AmInsomnia reads with the surreal and suspended cadence of those lonely hours in the night that only the sleep-less experience. It is, therefore, a kind and intimate companion to our meandering, agitated, non-knowing, spiritually naked thoughts at such hours. Keep it by your bedside lamp!Sarah Wilson, Author of First, We Make the Beast BeautifulInsomnia is not so much a lament for lost oblivion as a defiant hymn to the wild isle of Insomnia.Fiona Capp, Sydney Morning HeraldIt’s a book about insomnia’s existential and somatic qualities … Insomnia is a striking reminder of how strange we remain to ourselves. We spend a third of our lives in sleep, but our relationship with that condition is, as Benjamin describes it, “perverse” and “fundamentally embattled”. Read this at night at your own peril. The Saturday Paper [Insomnia is] a memoir in roving fragments that mirror the workings of a sleepless mind.Lilly Dancyger, Vulture
    more
  • Jared Day
    January 1, 1970
    It took me a bit to get through Insomnia for how short it is. Marina’s writing style and pacing drove me insane, in all of the best ways. The entire book felt like I was going through a full night of lying awake with my racing thoughts. Each page, each new idea another thought for me to hyper fixate on. The book ended with a sense of relief, finally falling asleep knowing you will be unrested in the morning, yet satisfied nonetheless. I will most likely be visiting Marina in the land of sleeples It took me a bit to get through Insomnia for how short it is. Marina’s writing style and pacing drove me insane, in all of the best ways. The entire book felt like I was going through a full night of lying awake with my racing thoughts. Each page, each new idea another thought for me to hyper fixate on. The book ended with a sense of relief, finally falling asleep knowing you will be unrested in the morning, yet satisfied nonetheless. I will most likely be visiting Marina in the land of sleeplessness every couple months. When I need someone to stay up all night with.
    more
  • Herman
    January 1, 1970
    Perhaps better reading for someone who wants to understand insomnia than someone who lives with it.
  • Sandra
    January 1, 1970
    Beautifully written, but the style doesn't really do anything for me. I have brain wanderings and insomnia all too often, maybe it's a case of too close yet too far.
Write a review