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

by William Styron

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1,921503,563 (3.87)43
Member:drakescott
Title:Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness
Authors:William Styron
Info:Random House (1990), Edition: 1st ed, Hardcover, 84 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:Read, Psychology

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Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness by William Styron (1990)

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Showing 1-5 of 47 (next | show all)
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 |
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 |
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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.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 2 descriptions

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