Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness by…

Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness (1990)

by William Styron

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,970503,445 (3.88)46

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 46 mentions

English (48)  French (3)  All languages (51)
Showing 1-5 of 48 (next | show all)
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 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 48 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
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.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

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.
Haiku summary

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

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
4 avail.
117 wanted
4 pay

Popular covers


Average: (3.88)
1 8
1.5 2
2 9
2.5 7
3 95
3.5 34
4 174
4.5 19
5 107

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


Help/FAQs | About | Privacy/Terms | Blog | Store | Contact | LibraryThing.com | APIs | WikiThing | Common Knowledge | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | 100,879,315 books! | Top bar: Always visible