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Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness [Paperback]

William Styron
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 8 1992
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.

Frequently Bought Together

Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness + The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression
Price For Both: CDN$ 28.12

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Product Description

From Amazon

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.

From Publishers Weekly

A meditation on Styron's ( Sophie's Choice ) serious depression at the age of 60, this essay evokes with detachment and dignity the months-long turmoil whose symptoms included the novelist's "dank joylessness," insomnia, physical aversion to alcohol (previously "an invaluable senior partner of my intellect") and his persistent "fantasies of self-destruction" leading to psychiatric treatment and hospitalization. The book's virtues--considerable--are twofold. First, it is a pitiless and chastened record of a nearly fatal human trial far commoner than assumed--and then a literary discourse on the ways and means of our cultural discontents, observed in the figures of poet Randall Jarrell, activist Abbie Hoffman, writer Albert Camus and others. Written by one whose book-learning proves a match for his misery, the memoir travels fastidiously over perilous ground, receiving intimations of mortality and reckoning delicately with them. Always clarifying his demons, never succumbing to them in his prose, Styron's neat, tight narrative carries the bemusement of the worldly wise suddenly set off-course--and the hard-won wisdom therein. In abridged form, the essay first appeared in Vanity Fair.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
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. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bullseye ! April 15 2004
By A Customer
This is the best description of what it is like to suffer depression I have ever read. I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, and related to SO many of the authors problems. I was in a hospital for 3 weeks, outpatient for 4 1/2 and am still on partial disability. My wife is now reading the book so she can get at least some idea of what this is like. This really hit home,and I feel it is a must read for every sufferer of depression, and just as importantly, the key people in their lives.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By Teddy
In this short but powerful memoir, William Styron, the author of "Sophie's Choice", tells of his personal battle with clinical depression.

Suffering from depression myself and working in the mental health field, I can honestly say he captured this debilitating illness very well indeed. I have tried to explain to my friends how I felt going through depression at my lowest, low. It's like sinking to the bottom of a well with no lifeline to hold on to, gasping for air.

There were so many things in this book that I could relate to first hand! People who have been lucky enough not to suffer from depression don't usually realize how debilitating it is. Symptoms are not just psychological, but there are many physical aspects as well. Styron explains this in a way that everyone, suffers and non-suffers can understand.

I still have some smaller bouts of depression at times, but it's more like treading water at the top of the well, thank goodness. Some of my experiences with the professionals were similar to his, but my ultimate recovery was a bit different. I was not hospitalized and my recovery took a lot longer.

This book is a bit dated. As I said above, I work in the mental health field. I can tell you that the hospitals that I have worked with, don't have the budget to do many of the programs that Styron had the fortune to experience, such as a lot of art therapy. It's a shame, because these would be beneficial!

Though this book is a little dated now, I recommend it for those that have suffered from depression and those who want to know more about what it is really like.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Short and honestly descriptive account June 17 2004
Since I have suffered from depression, I can relate to this book in many ways. For me, it is uplifting in ways to hear an accout of another who has suffered in similar ways and to ultimately hear of his triumph over the disease. He describes the disease well, emphasing how difficult it is to exaplain to others the terrible disabilitating effects of the disease.
It is good that this book is a short, easy reader that does not waste time. The personal accounts are great. Lets others know they are not alone.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Too visible Aug. 14 2004
By A Customer
By now, most that are Styron fans know of his battle with depression. Couple this with his excellent writings about difficult subjects (think SOPHIE'S CHOICE) and you've got one heck of an interesting portrait of a writer and a man. I found DARKNESS VISIBLE to be spellbinding and frankly, I couldn't put it down. Would also recommend two other books: A BRILLIANT MADNESS and THE BARK OF THE DOGWOOD for those interested in creativity and abuse or mental illness.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A disappointing glimpse into depression June 9 1999
By A Customer
While Styron is a wonderful and insightful writer, this account of his depression stays on the surface of his problem, and he never really allows readers into his troubled world. His detached analysis of his journey seems somewhat clinical and not very personal at all. For a very personal glimpse into depression, I would suggest reading AN UNQUIET MIND instead.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Into the dark Sept. 7 2003
In this slim volume, William Styron documents his descent into near-suicidal depression and his eventual recovery to something near normalcy. He eloquently describes his condition, and discusses some things about depression and how it's sometimes different for each individual. By telling of his journey, he offers a sense of hope through the depths of depression. I do wish this book were longer, if only to hear more about his battle and to see more clearly the path he walked.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Darkness described March 22 2003
If you seek a book on depression, you are probably looking for clinical texts written by people in the health professions. You may hardly expect this slim book by novelist William Styron--a memoir, but also a literary self-analysis regarding his condition.
DARKNESS VISIBLE is a revealing and engaging look into the life of a particular man who suffers this disease. Although I can only imagine how a victim of depression would respond to such a book, I would suppose it would offer something like companionship or camaraderie with someone who has experienced what they feel others can't understand, as well as a glimmer of hope if read to the end.
As a reader not afflicted with depression, the book was a story that illustrated his philosophical dilemmas, agonizing psychological pain, and his experiences in a personal and thoughtful way. If it was not as entertaining as the novels of his that I have read, I'm certain it wasn't meant to be. But if you suffer from depression, treat people who suffer from depression, or are just interested in the affliction, you might be interested in reading about Styron's attempts to grapple with and understand this often fatal disease that strikes so many people.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant prose
This book changed my perception of depression. I have never suffered a major depression (thank goodness) but I have spoken to many who have. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Richard G. Schwindt
5.0 out of 5 stars Deconstructing Depression
This book is a great quick read from a seasoned author(Sophie's Choice, etc.). It is interesting to read about a subject like depression from a person that has such literary... Read more
Published on Nov. 27 2010 by Stride
5.0 out of 5 stars A Short and Bittersweet Essay By a Survivor
Having wrestled with various mental health issues myself, I found Bill Styron's essay quite interesting. I recommend this book to anyone.
Published on July 5 2004 by Boyd Davis
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic and Well Written
This is a fantastic and well written moemoir about the life of someone dealing with depression, the reasons behind the depression and the inspirational journey through the darkness... Read more
Published on June 25 2004
3.0 out of 5 stars moving essay on suicidal depression
If you have never experienced depression - or have not learned what tools there are to cope with it - this is as good a place as any to begin to find out about it. Read more
Published on Nov. 26 2003 by Robert J. Crawford
5.0 out of 5 stars A ticket to travel
to the depths of the most dark part of the human spirit.
As in La Divina Comedia, you can feel like Dante, guided by the most bright mind and the more sensitive spirit in our... Read more
Published on June 24 2003 by GEORGINA GRECO
2.0 out of 5 stars Not what I was expecting
I was very disappointed in this book. It was not at all what I was anticipating. Not that is necessarily a bad book, but it was not what I had in mind. Read more
Published on April 27 2003 by Alicia Walker
5.0 out of 5 stars A Soul Laid Open
Amazing what kind of strength William Styron had to muster to open his life up enough to write about such a personal illness... Read more
Published on April 20 2003 by Jennifer Pezzo
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