Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness Paperback – Jan 8 1992
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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.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.
Most recent customer reviews
Depressing. Gave me words to express the grief I feel deep down. Not a book of cause and effect detail but deserves an audience when one is struggling to understand just 'what the... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Lars
Engaging, if somewhat melodramatic at times (see his subtitle, "Madness") autobiographical account of severe clinical depression, which was (thankfully) brief. Read morePublished 10 months ago by B. Keith
I have suffered from depression my whole life. This is not a self help book. It is a look inside what this disease can be and do to someone. Read morePublished 11 months ago by DVL65
For an accomplished writer, I found the prose hard to read, BUT given the topic, a bit of largess should be extended. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Jack Nahrgang
Phenomenal little book that has a lucid, hauntingly beautiful description of depression.Published 15 months ago by Nathan Corbett
This is the clearest view into depression that I can imagine. It's sad that even with his insight, he succombed to the illness.Published 18 months ago by Raymond Jepson
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 morePublished on June 5 2014 by Richard Schwindt
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 morePublished on Nov. 27 2010 by Stride
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