"Unholy Ghost: Writers on Depression" is a collection of essays about an illness suffered by more than one in five Americans today. Unlike other memoirs of depression, however, "Unholy Ghost" includes many voices and provides a more complete portrait of the illness. Lauren Slater describes her perilous experience as a pregnant woman on antidepressant medication. Susanna Kaysen, writing for the first time about depression since "Girl, Interrupted," criticizes herself and others for making too much of the illness. Larry McMurtry recounts the despair that descended after his quadruple-bypass surgery, and Darcey Steinke describes her struggles with depression as a teenager.
The collection also includes an illuminating series of companion pieces. Russell Banks' and Chase Twichell's essays represent husband-and-wife perspectives on depression; Rose Styron's contribution about her husband's struggle with melancholy is paired with an excerpt from William Styron's "Darkness Visible"; and the book's editor, Nell Casey, juxtaposes her own essay about seeing her sister through her depression with Maud Casey's account of this experience.
Recently, Nell Casey visited our studio in New York and spoke with Laura Miller about producing the book, the link between creativity and depression and the effects of medication on the creative process.