Villainous and unforgiving, insomnia is the enemy of energy and focus, the thief of our repose. But can insomnia be an ally, too, a validator of the present moment, of edginess and creativity? Marina Benjamin confronts 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 foregoing it) and of night, and 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 modern women 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.
Benjamin is the author of three previous memoirs: Rocket Dreams, short-listed for the Eugene Emme Award; Last Days in Babylon, long-listed for the Wingate Prize; and The Middlepause, finalist for the Arts Foundation’s Creative Nonfiction Award. She is a senior editor at the digital magazine Aeon.