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363 of 373 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Dance with Madness
William Styron is perhaps best known for his bestselling novel, Sophie's Choice, which was converted to screenplay and released as an Academy award-winning motion picture starring Meryl Streep. Many critics acknowledged Styron's seemingly natural ability to evoke a sense of bitter, submerged despair through subtle understatement. The reviewers who lauded his work had no...
Published on December 2, 2004 by Christopher Largen

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27 of 32 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A disappointing glimpse into depression
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.
Published on June 9, 1999


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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars depression is madness not sadness, March 25, 2000
This review is from: Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness (Paperback)
When I read Darkness Visible, I was in a 14-16 day black hole of madness and depression. Styron's memoir moved me to begin exploring more deeply and honestly the degree of loss I have experienced in my life and how it has affected me mentally. The book helped lift me out of the my dark bout. Later it helped me be more open and knowledgeable with both a colleague and a student suffering from depression. I gave Styron's book to both of them. They were both very grateful and both passed the book on to others. I was especially happy that my student enjoyed the book -- from the point when she read it until the end of the quarter she seemed liberated, more confident, and certainly more open. I think Styron opened her eyes to possibilities for herself as a sufferer of depression that she hadn't seen before.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterful description of the horror of clinical depression., November 2, 1999
This review is from: Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness (Paperback)
Having experienced clinical depression more than once in my life, I am absolutely in amazement at how accurately Styron describes the experience. In describing something that even he admits is almost beyond the descriptive power of words, he's done a masterful job. This book should be required reading for anyone who has a friend or loved one suffering from depression, and has never themself been able to understand what it's all about. Finally, people who have never experienced this horror can get at least a glimpse of what it is like from a truly gifted writer.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Forever Grateful, January 15, 2001
By 
Literatelilly (Mid-Hudson Valley, NY USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness (Paperback)
Ever since I first read DARKNESS VISIBLE ten years, after my second hospitalization for depression, I have tried to write to William Styron to thank him for putting my life and confusion into words. While depression still returns from time to time, I never have felt as alone as I did before I read this book.

The book is also helpful in educating people about mental illness. When a famous and respected person, like William Styron, has the courage to write about his own battle with depression, a subject that is often seen as self-indungence and discussed in hushed tones, he gives credence to the condition's being a disease, not a lack of self-control. Depression is less of a stigma than it was 10 years ago and part of that change is due to William Styron and DARKNESS VISIBLE
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Remarkable account of a near-fatal illness., January 25, 2005
By 
This review is from: Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness (Paperback)
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In the summer of 1985, novelist William Styron was overcome with severe clinical depression - a disease that, untreated, has a fatality rate of around 20%. Mr. Styron recovered (unlike Vincent van Gogh, Sylvia Plath, and millions of others) and recounts the course of his illness in this short book.

Mr. Styron's account will be familiar to other victims of depression ("unipolar disorder" in current medspeak) - the denial that one really has a problem, the self-loathing, the disheartening difficulty in getting competent professional help, the agonizing wait to see if this drug is going to work, the patronizing and/or thinly-veiled contempt of family and friends -- all will be sorely familiar. This is the best literary account of depression that I have read.

I'm not sure how the book will read to the non-afflicted. My wife liked it, and remarked on similarities when I was at my worst. Some previous reviews, such as Andrew Ferguson's in the Wall Street Journal , border on the vicious:

[Mr. Styron's disease] moved him to pen this infinitely detailed inventory of his emotions, sell it to a large publishing house, ... and preen for hack photographers from People magazine... [Mr. Styron] would prefer to wallow in his self-esteem deficiencies and write books that earn hundreds of thousands of dollars. There's just no pleasing some people.

This remarkable review seems akin to mocking a recovered cancer or heart-attack victim for surviving and then having the temerity to talk about it.

Highly recommended for depressives, their families and loved ones.

Review copyright © 1991 Peter D. Tillman
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hope and despair, February 26, 2005
By 
David B. Thompson (Carson City, Nevada USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness (Paperback)
A couple of years ago, I learned that I suffer from depression. It was a major eye-opener and explained a lot of my behavior over the 50+ years of my life. I've begun reading more about the disease over the last few months and this monogram came to my atttention through my wife, who also reads.

As I read through the first part of Styron's story, I was petrified. His descriptions of his feelings so mirrored my own experience. The words were penetrating and his writing is precise when he describes his experience. I did not know if I could finish the book because of this.

But, I perservered because I knew that he must have made it through the cycle of depression. After all, he lived to write the book. I'm glad I finished reading it. He tells the story with passion and clarity and I appreciate his candor.

I finished the book with a mixture of hope and disappointment. Hope because if he made it through his depression, I might very well make it through my own; disappointment because he found no cure and I may not either. All in all, I highly recommend this book for those who need to know about the disease, whether because they experience it directly or because a loved one is depressed. There is insight in it.
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27 of 32 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A disappointing glimpse into depression, June 9, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness (Paperback)
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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165 of 213 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars does not represent the illness, is pretentious, January 4, 2008
This review is from: Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness (Paperback)
This portrayal is of a depression that is clearly the result of alcoholism (long term effects and then withdrawal) followed by drug abuse--a temporary depression that has a clear cause, and a clear remedy. Not a typical case of clinical depression, not a good representation of the "disease" (his term, incorrectly used here in my opinion). When he checks himself into a hospital (his psychiatrist does not feel this is necessary, but the psychiatrist, in Styron's eyes, is a moron), the adorably incompetent but well-meaning staff of therapists take him off the pills he has been eating like candy (not as prescribed) and...wow, he gets better! Imagine that. Then he has the audacity to conclude that if people with depression would just wait it out, they will eventually feel better...he feels he can conclude this because he has BEEN there, If only all of the famous artists who have committed suicide (he brings them up a lot) had just waited it out and taken a vacation at an expensive funny farm, they'd be here today (he claims that it was the "getting away" that cured him, not the actual therapy--which he mocks--or the cessation of his drug abuse). It really worries me that people with depression or their loved ones may turn to this book to gain insight. I believe his experience of pain was authentic and it is a worthy subject for a book but, again, this is an example of a temporary depression with a distinct cause, not the illness of clinical depression. It is irresponsible to represent it as such. The author clearly romanticizes the illness and wants to be part of this club of "creatives" (he brings up the "artiste" thing many times). Well, lots of people get depressed, some of them are going to be famous, some of them are going to be creative, most of them will not have the energy for that...it's not a club. Most people with depression, if it lasts, as it does for many, can barely get out of bed and go to their job as a waitress or accountant or take care of their kids, let alone write a library of award winning novels, have two homes, a perfect wife, and travel the world. Again, I am not saying he did not suffer, I am just saying it is irresponsible to frame his depression as he does in this book. I am really surprised at how this book has been embraced. And I haven't even mentioned the corny, over-blown, flowery style that weighs the book down and feels so terribly dated for a book written in the nineties...I'm glad this book seems to be helpful to some people, but I worry that it is detrimental to many others.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Helping Others Understand the Affliction Called Depression, November 14, 2005
This review is from: Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness (Paperback)
It's incredibly difficult to convey what it's like to suffer with depression, particularly when you are in the midst of enduring the illness. Mr. Styron does an incredible job of describing the experience. I often found myself wishing that I had the ability to use language as proficiently as he does, especially when it comes to trying to explain what depression is, that it is a disease in the same sense as cancer or diabetes, and how completely devastating it is in every aspect of one's life---particularly when the disease is in its most difficult phases. (The World Health Organization says that depression is THE number one cause of disability throughout the world.)

I HIGHLY recommend this book to those who have someone they know and/or love who is struggling with this disease. Reading this book and striving to understand as much as possible about depression is one of the most loving acts one can perform for those who are afflicted. I also recommend it to those who have endured, or are enduring, depression as it will provide a sense of camaraderie and understanding that is rare to encounter as a patient.

If depression was recognized as the disease and scourge that it is, we would have a national alarm raised, Congressional committees examining the disease, its effects, and available treatments, celebrities would band together to raise money for research, and victims would NOT be told that they lack moral fiber or some other hurtful nonsense because they have the vast misfortune of being struck down by depression. This book explains why.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A high quality description of the indescribable pains of "depression", August 2, 2011
By 
Unfortunately, the person I love and have decided to spend the rest of my life with suffers from major clinical depression. While he is constantly trying to describe to me exactly what he is going through, I am constantly struggling to understand. I do not suffer from depression. I have never had a depressive episode aside from the situational depression/sadness after experiencing certain emotional trauma.

Styron is a genius. After I read Sophie's Choice, I looked at a list of his other works, to see if anything else he had written would satisfy my appetite for his beautiful prose. I was pleasantly surprised to see that he had written a personal account of his own struggle with major depression. I would have purchased this book from Amazon, however, I felt so pressed to read this book, I went to a local store and purchased a copy. It is only about 80 pages, so I read it in a single afternoon.

In this book, you will find a detailed account of Styron's personal struggle with depression. He offers his own insights into the disease, and never once pretends to know it all. However, Styron is such a talented writer, he is able to find the words, very few others have been able to find, that can even come close to explaining what depression is like. If you have a loved one who is struggling to cope with their depression, or if you yourself are the victim of this debilitating disease, do yourself a favor and invest in this book. Knowledge is power, and when one is depressed or supporting a depressed person, one can find one's self feeling powerless. I not only understand what my partner is going through to a greater degree than ever, I feel more empathy for the millions who have been diagnosed with and are forced to fight the symptoms of this terrible illness.

Thank you William Styron for letting me into your life in this way. Styron will forever have a special place in my heart, and I will buy this book for everyone I know who is in any way dealing with depression.

Jack
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Darkness Visible, only by the light of day, September 27, 2007
This review is from: Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness (Paperback)
Having suffered with, what is now called Rapid Cycling BiPolar I since my earliest memories, the depths of darkness and pain that Mr. Styron so eloquently conveys was something I had not found in another until the reading of this book. I have felt it in his novels and in those of many other writers. I have sensed it in film makers not knowing their particular experience. Birds of a feather I suppose. However reading his own very personal internal experience transported me to a place of strange kindred perception. Not having known the man himself, his expression of that void - that place that transcends flesh, ego, personality, separateness - provided a comfort thus far elusive. Being there, one is alone, and one is reminded of how alone we all are, thereby rendering death a place void of fear. The only existing emotion is pain, excruciating yes, avoidable never. He creates a haven for those of us unfortunate, or fortunate, enough to experience this place. From it springs an understanding one cannot vocalize, yet Styron manages to convey it through the rich, textural and intimate development of his characters. It is an understanding that transcends traditional learning and plummets to depths of what it is to be human, to be alive as two people, one within and one without. His ability to remove and don the mask and his inability to do so gave him the most valuable insight one can have into the nature of being, and not being. A brilliant writer; his pain, a gift of understanding, and his gift to us, to write that pain with such an eloquence that it can transport the reader into the souls of the people to whom he penned flesh and blood.

This is a crucial read for not only for we who know this place, but also for those who love us and exist with us side by side. Their pain, though it cannot comprehend our own, is as exquisite and "real" as our own. It is not only we who need to be understood, but also those who love us. Thank you Rose, for standing next to him, with him. Your gifts to him are also gifts to us all. You are as courageous as he.

With much Gratitude and Respect,
Kristina
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Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness
Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness by William Styron (Paperback - January 8, 1992)
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