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Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness by…
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Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness (1990)

by William Styron

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DARKNESS VISIBLE, by William Styron.
I read this "Memoir of Madness" in just a couple hours. At barely eighty pages, it's a quick read, albeit one packed with information about the dangerous disease of depression. Styron tells us of his long battle with what he calls a "despair beyond despair" and how it came to a dangerous head in 1985 resulting in his hospitalization for several weeks. He tells too of how the depression became worse after he suddenly stopped drinking at the age of sixty, after forty years with the bottle, and wonders if that cutoff from the crutch of alcohol may have been one of the triggers. Or was it a long-delayed reaction of unresolved grief at losing his mother at the tender age of thirteen? Then there were the antidepressants and the therapy sessions, which sometimes helped and sometimes didn't. He cites the unwavering support and understanding of his wife, Rose, as the most important part of his recovery.

Reading this 1990 book now, in March of 2015, I was struck by one passage that read -

"But with their minds turned inward, people with depression are usually dangerous only to themselves."

Unless, of course, that person is a co-pilot of an airliner full of innocent passengers, and his despairing determination to kill himself blinds him to the multiple and far-reaching horrors of his act of flying that plane into the side of a mountain. Twenty-five years after the publication of DARKNESS VISIBLE, Styron's words about a much feared and misunderstood malady are, sadly, still all too meaningful.

William Styron got help in time for his black and suicidal despair. He died from pneumonia at his home in 2006.

This is a thoughtful and still very relevant look at a mental illness that continues to devastate lives and families. Highly recommended. ( )
  TimBazzett | Mar 27, 2015 |
Een relaas van de zware depressie waarmee de schrijver van Sophie's Choice omstreeks zijn 60ste kampte. Met een voorwoord van Joost Zwagerman die erop wijst dat volgens de laatste brief uit Styron's Selected Letters de schrijver op het eind van zijn leven opnieuw geplaagd werd door een depressie die hij ditmaal mogelijk niet overleefde. ( )
  joucy | Feb 21, 2015 |

I finished this book downtown today while sitting on a concrete bench outside the Quality Inn, as a likely schizophrenic man screamed word salad into my ear. While all this excitement was going on, my girlfriend's car was being towed because of where I stupidly parked it. I liked the book at first, but I thought Styron wraps things up a little too easily. He waxes poetic about the horrors of depression, but he is alarmingly casual about his recovery. According to this slim volume of prose, after feeling suicidal Styron checked himself into the hospital and instantly began feeling better. The book ends on a hopeful note, which I guess is good for those depressives out there hanging on Styron's every word. The cover states the book was a "#1 Bestseller," but I wonder what percentage of buyers were just rubbernecking over a famous author's crash-and-burn scenario, and what percentage were actually people suffering from depression. My money's on the former for the larger percentage. Personally I haven't read any of his other books. I only picked this up because it was free (thank you Book Thing!) and I won't be keeping it. There are much better accounts of depression out there than this. ( )
  S.D. | Apr 4, 2014 |
This was my first encounter with Styron, and let me tell you, when I finally finished the book on that first sitting, I immediately dashed off to Amazon to take a look at the other books of his that are available. Though a slim volume, his extended essay on the nature of depression is one of the most penetrating I have come across. ( )
  soylentgreen23 | Mar 21, 2014 |
This book was fantastic. Not only was it beautifully written it accurately describes the feelings of being truly clinically depressed in a way that can really be beneficial to someone with a loved one who is dealing with the disease. It's also very concise, so everyone should have the time to read it.

Definitely do. ( )
  steadfastreader | Mar 18, 2014 |
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Epigraph
For the thing which
I greatly feared is come upon me,
and that which I was afraid of
Is come unto me.
I was not in safety, neither
had I rest, neither was I quiet;
yet trouble came.
— Job
Dedication
To Rose
First words
In Paris on a chilly evening late in October of 1985 I first became fully aware that the struggle with the disorder in my mind—a struggle which had engaged me for several months—might have a fatal outcome.
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Book description
"This book began as a lecture given in Baltimore in May 1989 at a symposium on affective disorders sponsored by the Department of Psychiatry of The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Greatly expanded, the text became an essay published in December of that year in Vanity Fair" Author's note.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679736395, Paperback)

In 1985 William Styron fell victim to a crippling and almost suicidal depression, the same illness that took the lives of Randall Jarrell, Primo Levi and Virginia Woolf. That Styron survived his descent into madness is something of a miracle. That he manages to convey its tortuous progression and his eventual recovery with such candor and precision makes Darkness Visible a rare feat of literature, a book that will arouse a shock of recognition even in those readers who have been spared the suffering it describes.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:49:40 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

The author chronicles his personal battles with severe depression, and offers help to others on how to overcome this disorder.

» see all 2 descriptions

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