Darkness Visible (Picador Books)
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Darkness Visible (Picador Books)

4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  9,564 ratings  ·  690 reviews
Darkness Visible 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. Full description
Paperback, 96 pages
Published February 7th 1992 by Picador (first published 1990)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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sckenda
I read “Darkness Visible“ with the last daylight available to me. As my eyes raced against the dimness of falling night, I was lying on the beach, listening to the roar of the eternal tide and the squawk of seagulls.

This is the memoir of a writer who came within inches of death by his own hand. William Styron, the creator of my beloved, “Sophie’s Choice,” described his battle with melancholia that came upon him in his early sixties, shortly after he gave up alcohol, which for decades had helped...more
Mikol
It was August in the year 2000. I was about to enter the room for my final exam. This was the introduction to Unix and it was coming to an end.

So was I.

Tears flowing copiously, leaning over the second floor balcony, I was overcome with darkness, the likes of which I had never experienced before.

I finished the exam and could not gather myself. I had no reason for living. In my grief I recalled an earlier experience of incredible bliss following a near death/drowning experience at Luther Burbank P...more
Melanie
Dec 03, 2007 Melanie rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: depressed people who aren't me?
Shelves: 2007
Maybe I'm being needlessly harsh in my one-star rating, but there was something about Styron's memoir that really distressed me. I read it during one of my own periods of depression, and for whatever reason I decided to pair it with The Bell Jar, and instead of feeling any sort of comfort or recognition in Styron's words, I just felt sort of angry. I became so hung up on the ways we (women, men, Americans, depressed people, etc.) talk about depression, and on what it means when we call it by dif...more
Diane
This is a stirring memoir of Styron's depression, which nearly killed him. I had seen multiple references to this book, all of them praising its insight into the despair that a depressed person can feel.

"In depression this faith in deliverance, in ultimate restoration, is absent. The pain is unrelenting, and what makes the condition intolerable is the foreknowledge that no remedy will come -- not in a day, an hour, a month, or a minute. If there is mild relief, one knows that it is only tempora...more
Terry
3 – 3.5 stars

Is there anything worse than feeling like you can’t control your own mind? Can you conceive the helplessness of being able to perceive the lies that your own brain is telling you, but still being unable to escape them? In feeling unequal to the task of avoiding triggers that send you into depths that despite their destructive tendencies seem at times either desirable or necessary, like picking at a fresh wound to morbidly watch it bleed? Is there anything more self-destructive than...more
Sharon
Like me, best-selling author William Styron ("Sophie's Choice," "The Confessions of Nat Turner") suffers from medically resistant clinical depression. "Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness" is a brief but compelling autobiographical journey through what Chaucer described as "melancholia" in the first literary reference made to what is now called a "mood disorder."

Styron writes plainly about his experience with depression, including a lengthy hospitalization that ultimately assisted him in obtai...more
Katherine
An account of an episode of suicidal depression that nearly ended the writer's life.

Good points:
+This is still one of the best descriptions of what an episode of major depression actually feels like. Styron completely nails the overwhelming sense that your life is coming to an end and you are powerless to stop it. He describes how every object in his house - kitchen knives, attic rafters, the garden hose, the bathtub - suddenly acquired a dual identity as the possible instrument of his undoing....more
Kristen
At a recent tenure party, a friend of mine leaned over to our small group sitting on the couch and revealed that she had just come from the campus bookstore where she had been perusing a colleague’s recent memoir. “I would never expose myself like that!” she exclaimed. When writers choose to invade their own privacy, as Styron puts it, by sharing a personal struggle, is that what they’re doing—exposing themselves? Certainly, on some level, when Styron sets his struggle with suicidal depression i...more
Leslie
One of my literary pet peeves: writers writing about their mental illnesses. I avoid books like this one, largely because I believe the cult of romanticism surrounding artistic despair is misguided to the point of being offensive. It reminds me of being stuck in an undergraduate seminar with that girl who wore black eyeliner and too many bracelets, lugged around conspicuous copies of Plath and Sexton, and wrote bad poems about her sex life. As both a writer and someone who suffers from chronic d...more
Shelley
In Darkness Visible, William Styron describes depression as "a disorder of mood, so mysteriously painful and elusive in the way it becomes known to the self—to the mediating intellect—as to verge close to being beyond description" (7). Given the incomprehensibility of depression, how it resists definition and frustrates those who try to communicate its effects to others, it makes sense that the charge of putting this persistent melancholy into words belongs to the artist rather than the psychiat...more
Mike Lester
I've read this slim volume three or four times now, and each time I take something new away from the experience. That's quite an achievement for such a short book, and one I am grateful for. Styron doesn't waste the reader's time with a lot of technical jargon and explanation of suicidal depression; he knows that the readers he's going to reach are all too familiar with the disease. Instead, he tells his own personal story of descent into the mire, and the realization of what he had to do to sur...more
orsodimondo
NATURAL BURELLA

Tag words:
Albert Camus, Romain Gary, Jean Seberg, Parigi, Lo straniero, Vanity Fair, Hotel Washington, Prix Mondial Cino Del Duca, 25.000 dollari americani, Abbie Hoffman, Un letto di tenebre, Randall Jarrell, Primo Levi, Halcion, Ludiomil, benzodiazepina, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association, Concorde (l’aereo), Gallimard, plateau de fruits de mer, Le confessioni di Nat Turner, Mersault, Emma Bovary, Considerazioni sulla ghigliottina, Sisifo,...more
John E. Branch Jr.
Read as research for a play about suicide.

Anyone who has experienced a serious degree of depression (as opposed to the downhearted feeling that we often called "depressed") knows that there's somehow much to it, though it also feels like a great nothingness. It can sap the strength of memory, making it difficult even to recall, much less to connect with, any pleasant experiences you've had, nor do you want anything of the kind now, much as you'd like to escape from what you do feel. It may kill...more
Sahil Sood
"In depression this faith in deliverance, in ultimate restoration, is absent. The pain is unrelenting, and what makes the condition intolerable is the foreknowledge that no remedy will come--not in a day, an hour, a month, or a minute. If there is mild relief, one knows that it is only temporary; more pain will follow."
The winning quality of Styron's memoir is its deeply sympathetic and bare-it-all tone. His work is erudite, sincere and elegantly stripped to the barest level. To those seeking im...more
Abailart
Revisited this. It is a literary gem as well as a marvellous compression into one short essay of that conceptually infinite beast called Depression. It came to mind after reading Thompson's The City of Dreadful Night, one of the greatest poetic descriptions of depression. Since I have at various levels been involved with depression throughout my life, I feel able to assert that the literary expression alone can come near to aiding understanding. My involvement at policy level with medical suppor...more
Tara
Given the number of great reviews this book had, I was eager to read, especially regarding a topic I feel is extremely neglected in good literature. Having experienced this 'darkness' without remittance for most of my life, I had high hopes for this book- which he did deliver, and evident in his descriptions of feeling like a 'husk', and the fragile moments following a near-suicide attempt-

"this sound, which like all music- indeed like all pleasure- I had been numbly unresponsive to for months,...more
Hamid
کتاب خاطرات نویسنده‌شه از دوره‌ای که مبتلا بوده به افسردگی پیشرفته. جالب که پارسال همین موقع‌ها بود که من یه دوره افسردگی رو گذروندم. همینطور که کتاب رو میخوندم حالات خودم یادم میومد، و انقدر توصیفاتش دقیق بود و همه حس‌ها رو خوب بیان کرده بود که فکر میکردم چطور تونسته بعد از درمان شدن باز خودش رو انقدر به اون شرایط نزدیک کنه و ازش بنویسه. کتاب در حد یه خاطره و گزارش نمونده و یه سری جملات و بخش های فوق‌العاده داره به لحاظ بیان ادبی.

آنچه به شکلی مرموز و به شیوه‌هایی دور از تجربه ی معمول کشف کرده
...more
Pooriya
رنج افسردگی شدید برای کسانی که به آن مبتلا نیستند کاملا تصورناپذیر است، و در بسیاری از موارد انسان را می‌کشد، چون اندوه و عذاب آن را نمی‌توان تحمل کرد. پیشگیری از بسیاری خودکشی‌ها فقط در صورتی میسر است که آگاهی عمومی نسبت به طبیعت این رنج ایجاد می‌شود. عده‌ای از مردم از طریق گذر درمانگر زمان -و در خیلی موارد به‌واسطه‌ی دارو و درمان و بستری شدن- از افسردگی جان سالم به در می‌برند که شاید تنها موهبت آن باشد. ولی آن خیل عظیم غم‌انگیزی که مجبورند خود را به دست نابودی بسپارند، همان‌قدر شایسته‌ی سرزنش‌...more
Emir Never
In 1985, William Styron was travelling to Paris to receive the Prix mondial Cino Del Duca. The award would be an addition to the many other awards and recognitions in an undeniably successful career. On his way, he was contemplating suicide. Styron was severely depressed. Darkness Visible is his account of his descent to the pits of "madness".

On Monday, Robin Williams, one of Holywood's most recognizable names, has reportedly been found dead--in what authorities suspect as a case of suicide. Wil...more
wally
This will be the 4th from Styron, having just finished The Confessions of Nat Turner. There's an author's note at the start, "this book began as a lecture given in Baltimore in May 1989 at a symposium on affective disorders sponsored by...Johns Hopkins..."

And there's this from Job:

For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me,
and that which I was afraid of is come unto me.
I was not in safety, neither had I rest, neither was I quiet;
yet trouble came.


Starts out:
In Paris on a chilly evening...more
Mariana Orantes
Otro de los libros recomendados y que me regaló H. H. La verdad me daba miedo leerlo, porque tengo un problema con estos temas: me recuerdan demasiado a mí misma, cuando me hundí. Recuerdo en específico tres momentos de mis más grandes depresiones. La primera, estaba muy pequeña, tendría como diez u once años y a causa de la muerte de Claudia, no sabía ni qué pasaba. Me recuerdo sentada en el sillón de mi abuela, viendo hacia adelante, con las luces apagadas, sin pensar en nada pero con un dolor...more
Ruzz
the title of this book makes it sound a harrowing, gritty look at madness and depression but it's a literature-look at the subject by a writer of literature.

the formal language he uses divides readers from his humanity and suffering in a way to make it seem like dinner-party conversation about his "dance with depression".

The only thing gleaned, and apt, was his focus on the idea that to someone whose never experienced the depths of depression, there is no language for the depressed to explain...more
Gideon
Jun 18, 2009 Gideon marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Gideon by: Tom Boyd
One of my professors, and mentor really, bought me this over the summer and gave this to me today.

It's strange because I am both... intensely touched and horrified to read the book. Reading about depression tends to, well, depress me. The fear it drudges up is so palpable that it is almost as paralyzing as depression itself.

Still, I am very touched that he did this, aiming to help me feel better understood with the events of last year. As summer fades I stand on its edge terrified of what fall w...more
Oi Yin
Mar 31, 2007 Oi Yin rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: The psychologically inclined
Shelves: memoirs, psychology
This deceptively slim volume is one man's account of his descent into the depths of a major depressive episode. He has the ability to convey the monumental struggles his emotional state created in his life. He leads use through each small step towards the inevitable decision to put a stop to all the pain. Like those who see the light at the end of the tunnel, he returned to tell the tale in a raw, gut-wrenching manner. Even through it all, the reader senses that unless s/he has succumb to the de...more
Matt Mccoy
When reading, the rate and volume of consumption can be an indicator of how hungry one is. But it can also reflect the calibre of discourse that one sits down ’to eat’. Although it is not a long book, with shoes launched from feet, I finished this in one sitting. It was like a plate of comfort food, abundantly spilling over the edges, taken to the mountain and sacrificed to the verisimilitude of an underlying savage hunger.

There are already some excellent reviews available that present detail of...more
Allyson
Oct 06, 2010 Allyson rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Allyson by: Darlene
I read this in an afternoon. Needed it. Styron's descriptions of the psychic pain of depression are as right-on as they can be, for how can the indescribable be conveyed with words on a page? I can see why this book was in J.'s library stack.

If ever in my teaching career I get to teach a history-of-madness-in-literature class, this book will be on the reading list.
Rod
A powerful description of what depression feels like from the inside (a feeling which Styron says the very word "depression" does not quite capture).

Playwright Jean Kerr once described hope as "the feeling you have that the feeling you have isn't permanent." Styron writes:

In depression this faith in deliverance, in ultimate restoration, is absent. The pain is unrelenting, and what makes the condition intolerable is the foreknowledge that no remedy will come—not in a day, an hour, a month, or a...more
Steve Woods
Depression has dogged me for most of my life, but I managed as best I could until a couple of decades ago when I fell into the abyss, much as Styron describes here. It lasted for nearly two years and its progression followed the trajectory outlined here, I just never had the words to relate to others what I was going through. I hid it from my children, though of course they knew its timbre; I hid it from colleagues, and I became very good at "acting as if" between collapses; as for the professio...more
Martha
Anyone that wants to learn what it's like to have depression without actually having it should read this book. It was an incredible portrayal of one man's experience of getting slammed with depression. The writing was amazing and it is absolutely essential reading for anyone that does not have the disease. Of course, it's suggested for those with the disease as well. Perhaps he can help put into words what you have been feeling? Help you explain it to the people around you, or at least help you...more
Sam Quixote
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. T...more
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William Styron (1925–2006), born in Newport News, Virginia, was one of the greatest American writers of his generation. Styron published his first book, Lie Down in Darkness, at age twenty-six and went on to write such influential works as the controversial and Pulitzer Prize–winning The Confessions of Nat Turner and the international bestseller Sophie’s Choice.
More about William Styron...
Sophie's Choice The Confessions of Nat Turner Lie Down in Darkness A Tidewater Morning Set This House on Fire

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“A phenomenon that a number of people have noted while in deep depression is the sense of being accompanied by a second self — a wraithlike observer who, not sharing the dementia of his double, is able to watch with dispassionate curiosity as his companion struggles against the oncoming disaster, or decides to embrace it. There is a theatrical quality about all this, and during the next several days, as I went about stolidly preparing for extinction, I couldn't shake off a sense of melodrama — a melodrama in which I, the victim-to-be of self-murder, was both the solitary actor and lone member of the audience.” 153 likes
“In depression this faith in deliverance, in ultimate restoration, is absent. The pain is unrelenting, and what makes the condition intolerable is the foreknowledge that no remedy will come- not in a day, an hour, a month, or a minute. If there is mild relief, one knows that it is only temporary; more pain will follow. It is hopelessness even more than pain that crushes the soul. So the decision-making of daily life involves not, as in normal affairs, shifting from one annoying situation to another less annoying- or from discomfort to relative comfort, or from boredom to activity- but moving from pain to pain. One does not abandon, even briefly, one’s bed of nails, but is attached to it wherever one goes. And this results in a striking experience- one which I have called, borrowing military terminology, the situation of the walking wounded. For in virtually any other serious sickness, a patient who felt similar devistation would by lying flat in bed, possibly sedated and hooked up to the tubes and wires of life-support systems, but at the very least in a posture of repose and in an isolated setting. His invalidism would be necessary, unquestioned and honorably attained. However, the sufferer from depression has no such option and therefore finds himself, like a walking casualty of war, thrust into the most intolerable social and family situations. There he must, despite the anguish devouring his brain, present a face approximating the one that is associated with ordinary events and companionship. He must try to utter small talk, and be responsive to questions, and knowingly nod and frown and, God help him, even smile. But it is a fierce trial attempting to speak a few simple words.” 85 likes
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