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Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness by…

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

by William Styron

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Title:Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness
Authors:William Styron
Info:Random House (1990), Edition: 1st ed, Hardcover, 84 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Read, Psychology

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


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In this intimate memoir of a bout with clinical depression, William Styron (1925-2006) tries to answer the basic question, "How does it feel?", but admits that he cannot: "I was feeling in my mind a sensation close to, but indescribably different from actual pain...[it is] a form of torment...alien to everyday experience." (pp. 16-17). Instead, he chronicles his own battle with the demon by listing the familiar and not so familiar outward signs, including sleeplessness, lack of sexual feelings, and altered vocal quality. As his "madness" (his word) progresses, suicidal thoughts became impossible to ignore. Finally, seven weeks in one of the best (unnamed) psychiatric hospitals in the land restore his equilibrium. He ends with a message of hope to other sufferers: depression's "saving grace" is that "it is conquerable".

As the award-winning author of Sophie's Choice and other novels, William Styron led a life of more privilege than most of us experience, but his wealth, fame, and professional standing could not shield him from the mental illness that chased him all his life and finally caught up with him during his sixtieth year. He left behind this short but magnificent document that succeeds as well as anything I've ever read at describing the indescribable. ( )
  akblanchard | Apr 17, 2017 |
I think this is the book where, as an aside, the author describes how he (his body) could no longer tolerate alcoholic drink, how it seem to happen to him suddenly, as over a day or two. I know this experience. Also this is the book, I think, where he talks of his association with the French-Algerian existentialist Albert Cumus. ( )
  jack2410 | Feb 2, 2017 |
Darkness Visible – A Memoir of Madness by William Styron William
Styron’s “Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness” is a slim volume (84 pages) recounting in first person, his deeply personal struggle with crippling depression, the events leading up to his battle with the illness, and many of the terrors surrounding that time. In language befitting the Pulitzer Prize winning novelist, Styron articulates the hell of depression with stark beauty, comparing many facets of his bleak existence with the optimistic happenings of everyday life going on all around him, and his desperation at being unable to enjoy even the simplest things. After seeing Styron interviewed on a talk-show, and hearing him say, long after publication of this book, that it had garnered more attention than any of his other novels, Sophie’s Choice and the Confessions of Nat Turner included, combined – he went on to say, as flattering as it was, it puzzled him somewhat and he was growing a little tired of, “...hearing about that damned depression book...” He said it jokingly, but it made one wonder, all the same; at least it made me wonder. I was one of the readers who loved that book and loved him for writing it. In fact, coincidentally, at the time I saw Styron being interviewed; I was attempting to write a short note to him, thanking him for writing “Darkness Visible” and also, trying to tell him why it was such an important book and what it meant to me. In the end, I decided to forget about the interview and proffer my gratitude to Styron anyhow. I did tell him that I hoped he didn’t mind receiving one more plaudit for his “depression book” trusting that his famous sense of humour was intact. Why did I feel such a need to write to this author? Styron’s “Darkness Visible”, in addition to recounting in vivid detail the darkness of depression and the depths of despair, talks at length about his reluctance to be hospitalized, and about staying too long on the wrong medication. In my own sorry state, I remained straddling the abyss far too long, avoiding hospitalization with an irrational fear that bordered on paranoia. After reading “Darkness Visible”, a book written about a situation very similar to my own, and penned by an author I greatly respected, it was as if I had received tacit permission to enter the hospital. Styron does not sugar-coat hospitalization, far from it, but he does present it as a viable option. For someone like me, that was all it took. I thought he should know how helpful his little book had been. Some months later, I received this in the mail: “Dear Ms.I I was very touched by your eloquent letter. I’m so glad my experience – especially the part concerning the hospital – could have been valuable to you. Your words make me glad I wrote the book and I’m grateful for your thoughtfulness. Sincerely, William Styron.” By the time I received his note, I was on my way out of my own depression. Had I not been, I’m sure reading William Styron’s very kind words would have helped immeasurably. As it is, I treasure them still and have the note pasted in the front of my copy of “Darkness Visible”, a tiny tome about depression and the darkest stages of the human condition. More importantly, in the end, the book is about living through depression, and how almost everyone does, something it is hard remember when one is in the throes of the illness. For that alone, the book is worth reading and re-reading. (this review has appeared online at Helium.com and on the reviewers personal blog', "S.E.Ingraham Says") ( )
  S.E.Ingraham | Jan 1, 2017 |
Profoundly honest account of William Styron's life of depression, focusing on 1985, the year it became debilitating to him to the point where he almost killed himself. Styron is very literate on the subject of depression itself in the medical sense but he shines in his self-examination of his life from a youth to the time when he wrote the book. For someone who has battled depression, it is a gift of hope that they will someday know serenity and joy. ( )
  bogopea | Aug 20, 2016 |
Short but to the point, this intensely personal memoir sheds a bit of welcome light on an illness still largely inexplicable and in severe cases almost incurable.
  bartt95 | Jun 22, 2016 |
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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.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 2 descriptions

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