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Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness Paperback – January 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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If you live with depression or have a loved one you would like to understand better, DARKNESS VISIBLE is an excellent place to start.
I have recommended this book to many people since reading it, to both friends who have never been depressed and to the clinicians who are helping me through this difficult experience. I plan to read it again very soon primarily because I think it is a masterpiece of language.
I recommend it to anyone who appreciates truly magnificent writing or to those who would like to understand more about one person's experience both experiencing and conquering depression.
As Mr. Styron rightly stated, everyone’s journey through depression is different. His experience is not necessarily the experience of another suffering from the same disease. I would highly recommend this book to anyone suffering from mental illness, as well as those close to them, so they may see that they are not alone and that there is hope.
Mr. Styron describes how his depression is convoluted; sometimes eagerly awaiting the day in the morning, and depressed at night, and vice versa. The depressive seizures, the alcoholism, all of these conditions give rise in the author that this condition is hopeless. Alcohol no longer works, (this is very common in mentally ill patients), until he hears an Alto Rhapsody by Brahms that causes him to remember the once joyous occurrences in his life. After hospitalization and medication, he does find serenity and joy.
What I liked about this book was the depth it takes the reader into relative to the author's illness, and the fluidity of his writing in describing his wilderness of thoughts. There are parts that are chilling where the reader wants to look away, but we are forced back because we are fervently hoping the author will recover. This book is not for the faint-hearted. Those who have depression will see themselves, those who are caregivers will realize that they are not alone.
My only criticism of this book would be that someone who is ill reading it (or someone who is not) may not have a handle on not only Styron's style of writing, but some of his difficult vocabulary. However, I would highly recommend this book.
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this is a true description of how it is. 15 words Kindle Fire says it all!