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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compassionate portrayal of melancholia
Fascinating book that explores and helps readers to understand the real depths of an illness which few can fully comprehend. As a memoir of the author's own experiences it offers a valid portrayal of melancholia, informing readers in his wonderful narrative style. With such a dark subject matter this book won't leave you full of smiles but it does leave you with a more...
Published on 31 Oct 2001

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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An honest account - could go further...
Styron is not comfortable with exposing himself in this book - it is clear from the tone of the writing, and he even implies it by admitting he only decided to write it as a result of some lecture given on the topic of Depression, which brought on a mass of empathic and identifying letters.
Personally, I would've liked to know a bit more about the actual feelings and...
Published on 13 Aug 2003 by Adi Shtamberger


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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compassionate portrayal of melancholia, 31 Oct 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness (Paperback)
Fascinating book that explores and helps readers to understand the real depths of an illness which few can fully comprehend. As a memoir of the author's own experiences it offers a valid portrayal of melancholia, informing readers in his wonderful narrative style. With such a dark subject matter this book won't leave you full of smiles but it does leave you with a more compassionate view of melancholia and a satisfying read.
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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's a remarkable book....., 21 Aug 2002
This review is from: Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness (Paperback)
It was at school actually when I first read it and we never finished it within our class - I made a point of finishing it, why ?? This is why....
What I think is great is the sheer honesty which he tells us of his slide into the depths of depression, there is no hiding from the fact he went through utter hell. It's a short book - but, if you like a good ending then this is the one of you. Never, ( and I think it would take a lot to surpass it ) have I read a more perfect closing paragraph - it's immaculate. He sunms it up to perfection and if it does anything, it makes you realise.
Thanks.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A stark and moving description of depression, 17 May 2000
By A Customer
If anyone is wondering what depression feels like, this book is one man's answer. William Styron frankly and eloquently describes the internal torment that took him to the brink of suicide, then details how a spell in hospital and continued therapy and medication pulled him back to life.
Depression crept up on Styron at the height of his career. He had seen friends give in and take their own lives in the past, but had never expected to face the illness himself.
This is the book I recommend to family and friends who want to know how depression feels. Styron says it so much better than I can.
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best depiction of depression I have read, 18 Dec 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness (Paperback)
This is the best depiction of depression I have read. It makes me realise I've never been really depressed myself - although I know people who have, and this book depicts it as it must be. Moving and frightening.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An honest account - could go further..., 13 Aug 2003
By 
Adi Shtamberger "AdiTurbo" (Tel Aviv, Israel) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness (Paperback)
Styron is not comfortable with exposing himself in this book - it is clear from the tone of the writing, and he even implies it by admitting he only decided to write it as a result of some lecture given on the topic of Depression, which brought on a mass of empathic and identifying letters.
Personally, I would've liked to know a bit more about the actual feelings and thoughts of a depressed man, rather than about his actions or life events as a result of depression. For that reason I much prefer 'Sunbathing in the Rain' by Gwyneth Lewis, which is a more internal look into the depressive experience.
Even so, this book might be helpful for people who are related to depressed people, because it might help them understand how it turns a person into a dysfunctional mush of raw nerves.
I suppose people must have been so excited about the book when it first came out, because it was written by such a well-known and respected novelist, and brought on wide recognition of a terrible desease, from which millions of people had to suffer secretly and shamefully in the past. I'm sure it helped many people decide to put everything on the table and get helped, and that in itself is a great achievement.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brave, Accurate And Chilling, 21 Nov 2006
By 
Martin A Hogan "Marty From SF" (San Francisco, CA. (Hercules)) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness (Paperback)
William Styron's "Darkness Visible" is a masterpiece of observation of the human spirits decline into depression (madness). Few authors have ever so deftly and succinctly described the feelings, fear or hopelessness that surrounds this disease. Stryon makes several references to other famous literary giants and constantly wonders if he too, is destined to defeat by this monster melancholia. Is this disease more prevalent among the artists or do they simply have the tools to portray the insidiousness of its wake? Stryon's allegories and sparse use of extremely descriptive verbiage come as close to describing the experience of depression as one could ever imagine. Noted for his great work, "Sophie's Choice", Stryon continues here with a piece of work that demands reading by anyone possessing a human spirit. It's a masterpiece.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "A Despair Beyond Despair", 8 Nov 2010
An amazing book. Surely no reader, prepared to travel with Styron on his harrowing journey into the "yawning darkness" of depression, could emerge with an unchanged attitude to severe depression.
Styron's candour and eloquence are enhanced by his vivid metaphors and by powerful descriptions of his emotional state. He teaches us awareness and understanding of the torment of the sufferer and also of the value to the depressed person of our committed support and our reassurance of his/her self worth.
An important read for anyone in close contact with one who sufferers from depression.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars And so Once Again we Beheld the Stars., 9 Feb 2010
By 
Bob Salter "Captain Spindrift" (Wiltshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness (Paperback)
Were it not for the fact that depression has cast its dark shadow over my life, I would not be here now typing out yet another review. You see it keeps my mind focused on healthier things! I have no desire to revisit that place of despair and desolation, and so I beat on occupying my mind and body in healthier pursuits. But the scars are still there, and like a dormant volcano the tremors are still occasionally felt, and there is the nagging possibility in the back of my mind that another eruption could be far more catastrophic than the last. But I am older and hopefully wiser now, and I pray that this experience makes me stronger and better equipped to deal with whatever the future may hold. Futures have an infuriating habit of taking surprising twists and turns!

Baring ones soul to public view is never easy, but far far better than suffering in silence. It is perhaps easier for the writer than those who face crowds of people more directly. William Styron is one such writer who has done so in this little book. That fine and largely forgotten writer Richard Jefferies also did so with his "The Story of My Heart". I have read Styron's magisterial "tour de force ", "Sophies Choice", about a holocaust survivor, and the awful past experiences that she has to try to come to terms with. Styron brilliantly portrays a young woman going through the turmoil of depression emanating from these past experiences. Styron admits in "Darkness Visible" that depressive illness had been knocking at his door for some time, and that it aided him when painting characters in his books. He goes on to give a very personal account of his experiences and how he dealt with his illness. He makes it clear that the illness is idiosyncratic in its character, and that each person will suffer differently, although there are some common denominators.

The book contains many insightful passages. One such was an explanation given to him of the medical professions understanding of depression, likening it to Columbus arriving in America but still being stuck on an island in the Bahamas with the vast country of America still to be discovered. Not much has changed since Styron wrote those words. Indeed there is still much that is not understood, for the human mind is a very complex creation. Styron pulls no punches when he describes his serious bout of depression as a form of madness. Strong words made even stronger in today's PC world gone mad. But he makes it clear that this is only applicable to extreme cases, of which I personally was not one, but can still relate to the word madness when I recall my befuddled state of mind at the time.

Thankfully Styron is even able to inject some black humour into a very serious subject. He describes the ward of the hospital he was admitted to, as containing fourteen or fifteen middle aged males and females in the throes of melancholia of a suicidal complexion, as a place one could safely assume to be a fairly laughterless environment. He also laughs at the art therapy sessions he took describing pictures of a skull and a smiley face he drew for amusement. He also mentions many famous people from the past who were afflicted, many of whom sadly committed suicide. The great writer and Auchwitz survivor Primo Levi, of whose work I am a great admirer, was one of these. Today we think of someone like Stephen Fry, who has been very honest and open about his struggles with illness.

But most importantly Styron drums in the most important and uplifting message at the end. It is often the support and encouragement of friends and family, who may not understand, but unstintingly help to guide sufferers through this darkness of the soul, that is often the greatest reason for cure. Encouragingly most people ascend from this pit and emerge into a "Shining new World". Once again everything seems fresh and we can wonder at the world anew. Suicide is not an option in such a world! A small book, with a powerful message! Highly recommended.

"The wonder of the world, the beauty and the power, the shapes of things, their colours, lights and shades, these I saw. Look ye also while life lasts".
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Still in the dark, 18 Sep 2011
By 
Sam Quixote - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness (Paperback)
I picked read this as I'm always interested in peoples' experiences with depression and how they deal with it/emerge from it, as well as how it was for them. I think sometimes I'm depressed but having read this book I think what I have might simply be the occasional blues.

William Styron makes this distinction clear in his memoir "Darkness Visible" where he says that full on depression (a term he deplores as too weak a description - he prefers the label "brainstorm") totally cripples a person. They're unable to do anything, can't get through a day, and contemplating death becomes almost pleasurable as it's an escape from their condition.

I think this was the best thing to come out of reading this book - the understanding between being unhappy with yourself and your life sometimes but still continuing and taking comfort from little things, to being clinically depressed. While a lack of action and a blackness in thought were the things I took from this as being clinically depressed, I never really felt that I understood what it was like to be this way. The best Styron manages is a sort of lethargy that most people can relate to, he can never actually fully articulate the sensation (or lack thereof) of depression (odd as he is a very verbose writer).

A lot of the book is taken up with Styron musing on other famous writers who were depressed as well as the treatment of his depression - nothing particularly special, pills, followed by hospitalisation and counselling.

Though it's a short book, I felt Styron didn't quite put across the experience of depression very well in the book and I came away from it none the wiser having read it. "Prozac Nation" is a less well written but more enlightening read by someone who's also been through the wringer of mental hell. "Darkness Visible" felt like it was written by someone afraid, or unable, to return back to the depths to dredge up the experience on paper and so produced a weaker book as a result.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and uplifting, 23 Aug 2009
My only gripe with this book is in the use of the word 'madness' in the sub-title. Depression isn't madness. Maybe Styron's publishers wanted an attention-grabber on the cover.
Styron's account of the descent into 'despair beyond despair' is, first and foremost, beautifully written. As you would expect from an award-winning novelist, the control of prose is exemplary, the literary knowledge formidable and there is honesty, lucidity and clarity in all that Styron tells us. Great haunting descriptions of soul-shaking sadness, loneliness and 'stifling anxiety' are interspersed with useful pieces of information about therapy and the dangers of incorrect diagnoses and dosages of medication.
On the face of it, you could say that Styron would have been in the high risk category for depression anyway. He lost his mum to cancer while still a boy, and his grieving process was (important note) not completed. Just before his depression began to develop, Styron had given up a long-term love affair with alcohol, which must have thrown his brain chemicals into turmoil. And, most important of all perhaps, he was a creative writer, and writers see the world differently from non-writers.
Styron makes a vital point when he says that ALL depression is unique to the individual who suffers. What bothers me may not bother you, and the infinite complexity of the human brain ensures that we all have deeply personal issues buried somewhere in the brain cells.
Styron's description of the night when he'd decided that another day's misery was an intolerable prospect, and the thought of death irresistable, is compulsive. I wept when I read it. A careful reader will note that Styron heard a piece of music he associated with his mum; this, and a final huge effort to remember those who loved him and the desecration of taking his own life pulled him back from the brink and re-directed him into hospital, where he made a remarkable recovery.
The book's final lines from Dante are uplifting and moving. The steady journey back to the light after the descent into darkness is a hope that all depressives can realistically entertain, though, as Styron's own life demonstrates, there are no guarantees that depression won't return.
I wish fellow sufferers would refrain from the pointless competitive silliness of 'My depression is bigger than his depression and so Styron doesn't know how I feel etc.' Nobody can know entirely how another feels, but Styron has written touchingly of how he felt, and my heart went out to him. This is a very important book for depressives.
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Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness
Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness by William Styron (Paperback - 5 April 2001)
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