Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness

Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness

3.6 27
by William Styron
     
 

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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.

Overview

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.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's 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. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Nearly 40 years ago, Styron published his first novel, Lie Down in Darkness , which revolved around the suicide of a young woman, Peyton Loftis. Now, he tells the short but very moving story of the deep depression which nearly overcame him in the summer of 1984. A successful middle-aged writer at the peak of his powers and acclaim, Styron was--seemingly inexplicably--struck by insomnia and a growing sense of malaise leading to hopelessness. He consulted a psychiatrist and was given high doses of the controversial drug Halcion for his insomnia, but his despair continued to increase until one evening he actually attempted suicide, only to be rescued by the playing of Brahms's Alto Rhapsody in a video he was watching. He immediately had himself hospitalized, and after several weeks in the security and healing atmosphere of the hospital began to feel himself again. Expanded from a 1989 Vanity Fair article, this book is highly recommended. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/90.-- Marcia G. Fuchs, Guilford Free Lib., Ct.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780679736394
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
01/28/1992
Pages:
96
Sales rank:
68,811
Product dimensions:
5.22(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.30(d)

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Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 27 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
After all the hype I'd heard about 'Darkness Visible', I found it a bit disappointing. Styron is clearly a great writer- few would dispute that. Nonetheless, I found his description of the subjective feeling and experience of depression to be somewhat lacking. Of course, it's very difficult to describe any subjective mental state, but nonetheless I didn't find his attempt too compelling. On the other hand, the book is very well-written and stylistically pleasing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've read alot of great children's books such as Ella Enchanted, Destiny, Defender of the small, and The Time Warp Trio books, but I've never read a 'sophisticated and grown up' book before. I'm twelve, how else should I describe it? I do think this book is good. I had a hard time understanding what it meant at first, but later on I understood that no one who has not been afflicted with isnomnia will truly know the full depth of madness and emptiness that they feel. Styron, with intimate details, creates an illistration for us.
YoyoMitch More than 1 year ago
Depression is a disease that is hidden, horrific and is the fourth leading cause of death in America. Because the cause of their suffering is not apparent, most who suffer this affliction have to deal with the mis-understanding of others thus adding to the pain already present. How to describe the experience of this pain to others who have not been personally touched by it is akin to trying to explain the taste of chocolate to someone who has never heard of candy. Mr. Styron uses his impressive writing talents to achieve the near impossible with this short memoir, detailing the experience of major depression with such clarity that the reader will “feel” the darkness. The author’s depression, as he reflects on his life late in the book, began as a young man.  He noticed it was worsening early in 1985 but the symptoms were so familiar to him by then that its’ severity seemed to have sneaked up on him.  After a trip to Paris, where he was given a national award, a trip that was tortuous due to his worsening condition, he contacted and saw a psychiatrist. This particular M.D. was either: 1) incompetent, 2) woefully unfamiliar with Major Depressive Disorder and/or 3) needed to change professions. Mr. Styron’s degrading was swift, dramatic and nearly fatal. He relates the encounter with such clarity that the reader begins to understand the appeal suicide has on those suffering from this disorder. Fortunately, he received the help he needed before he followed the Siren’s call of the Big Sleep. It took a seven-week inpatient hospital stay for him to find the stability he needed to recover. This is not an easy book to read, nor is it one that should be avoided.  For those who know the Noon Day Demon personally, it will be a familiar visit with an unwelcomed guest. For those who are connected with those who are suffers, the pain will be in the realization of the depth of anguish their loved ones suffer. For those who have no personal experience with this disease, the uneasiness will be reading a real life horror story. Everyone who reads this book will be well served in learning some of the “what to do” and “what not to do” in response to depression and its symptoms. The author is fortunate in that he could afford a seven-week inpatient stay to address his illness. To have the resources Mr. Styron had is something that few have available or could afford. There are other recourses for those who are dealing with this issue readily accessible within most communities. Medications that effectively relieve most of the symptoms of depression, for the majority of those so afflicted, are commonly available and are constantly being improved.  Mental health professionals offer therapy that can help the depressive in addition to, or in lieu of, the medication.  This book rightfully earned Mr. Styron recognition both for his writing and for his topic.  He lived long enough to personally receive the accolades and his death was due to his age, not his own hand.  This is the ending message of Darkness Visible – one can overcome such mental darkness and walk in clarity.
Holly_George More than 1 year ago
A good read! Could totally relate to what the author was saying/ describing. Reading this was like having a chat with a good friend. Would recommend it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Full marks for Styron coming out at a time when depression needed a smart poster boy -- because mental illness does a great job dividing our world. However, it simply isn't true (as per the publisher's claim) that Styron is the first to convey the full terror of depression -- Hemingway and Chekhov immediately come to mind with their short stories, for instance, that don't actually name depression or madness, but evoke it's cruelties beautifully. Styron certainly has done a magnificent job with this memoir, in large part because he keeps everything understated (certainly restrained). His book invites serious reflection, and it's worth considering his bursts of anger as symptomatic more than didactic. I also recommend IN THE GHOST COUNTRY as another interesting book that intimately follows a man's descent into a haunted madness as he walks to the South Pole. A stunning fall to the bottom of the world indeed.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
As a major in Human Development and a survivor of depression, I found that Styron's memoir was nothing more than big words. He calls Art Therapy infantile! A well establish writer should becareful how he uses words... especially on a technique that is internationally used to treat clients with depression. Although, he makes note that every recovery is different, he disclaimed a well respect treatment technique. Also, he focused too much on that fact that suicidal ideation, is experienced by 'famous' people too. Any educated person knows, that depression is not a racist disease... I don't think he needed to used more than 2 chapters explaining this.