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Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness by…

Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness (1990)

by William Styron

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A powerful description of what depression feels like from the inside (a feeling which Styron says the very word "depression" does not quite capture).

Playwright Jean Kerr once described hope as "the feeling you have that the feeling you have isn't permanent." Styron writes:

In depression this faith in deliverance, in ultimate restoration, is absent. The pain is unrelenting, and what makes the condition intolerable is the foreknowledge that no remedy will come—not in a day, an hour, a month, or a minute. If there is mild relief, one knows that it is only temporary; more pain will follow. It is hopelessness even more than pain that crushes the soul.

He points out that, though depression is at least as debilitating as other illnesses, those who suffer from depression are expected to press on; to act normal; to function in the world as if their illness did not exist, or more accurately as if their illness were something that they could choose to change.

Leaves one with a lot to think about, and though Styron is not afraid to explore very dark places, he ends on a hopeful note. ( )
  bibleblaster | Jan 23, 2016 |
This was an interesting and well-written account of descencion into depression late in life. The account is pithy and honest. ( )
  Jen.ODriscoll.Lemon | Jan 23, 2016 |
This was an interesting and well-written account of descencion into depression late in life. The account is pithy and honest. ( )
  Jen.ODriscoll.Lemon | Jan 23, 2016 |
memoir of depression - very good!

A work of great personal courage and a literary tour de force, this bestseller is Styron's true account of his descent into a crippling and almost suicidal depression. Styron is perhaps the first writer to convey the full terror of depression's psychic landscape, as well as the illuminating path to recovery.
  christinejoseph | Nov 28, 2015 |
How can one describe something that is shrouded even from its own sufferers? A sensation that poets have described as a dark wood, writers as a terrible storm, and musicians expressed only through the anguish of discordant notes and trembling, anticipatory crescendos that stand on the edge of a precipice?

William Styron's Darkness Visible is the exceptionally lucid, achingly personal story of his own fall into depression, and he vividly adds his own perceptions to the plethora of attempts to describe what remains indescribable. He fully acknowledges the futility of his attempt, but maybe in the same way that individual cases of the disorder can vary, he can add his own voice to the attempts.

His writing is almost Victorian in its complexity and elegance. He writes that, "It thus remains nearly incomprehensible to those who have not experienced it [depression] in its extreme mode, although the gloom, 'the blues' which people go through occasionally and associate with the general hassle of everyday existence are of such prevalence that they do give many individuals a hint of the illness in its catastrophic form" (Styron 7).

I have read numerous treatises on depression, ranging from personal accounts to scholarly articles to diagnostician's manuals, and while the latter attempt to define depression in neat criteria, the former more accurately captures and elaborates the peculiar suffering afflicted. Styron is among the best of these. Owing to its arrestation of thought and rationality, it is almost impossible to describe it while in its grips, and so almost all accounts of depression are recollections, but Styron's is evocative, erudite, and intelligent.

Fittingly, he begins with Job's lament and ends with Dante's hopeful lines, "And so we come forth, and once again beheld the stars" (Styron 84).

For those who have never felt this disorder that defies categorization, explanation, and elucidation, Styron brilliantly captures a modest inkling of what it feels like (and by no means take that as a reproof; a modest inkling is half again more than most manage). For those who have, this is a source of familiarity, a feeling of brotherly camaraderie, as well as a source of comfort. Hold on, Styron encourages, you are not alone in this, and you, too, will once more behold the stars. ( )
  kittyjay | Apr 23, 2015 |
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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
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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:03 -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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