Caitlin's Reviews > Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness

Darkness Visible by William Styron
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's review
Dec 03, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: 2011
Read from December 18 to 26, 2011

This is my second read of this book and it's been a long time between. I read it in 1985 during the tail end of a long-term crash I survived and it was resonant, although painful - the latter is why I haven't read it again 'til now.

Styron suffered from a gruesome acute episode of depression, but I've always thought that crash was the culmination of years of depression kept more or less at bay by alcohol. I suffer from chronic depression and panic disorder and have my whole life so I know a bit about all the things one does to stave the uglies off. I've always found Styron particularly difficult to read, although he writes beautifully, because most of his work is suffused with melancholia and affects my mood in ways that aren't necessarily healthy for me. Nonetheless, this memoir captures the feeling of depression (and the thinking) very well.

Depression has its own individual flavors depending on who you are, but the worst of it is the sluggish mind and the total incapacitation. It's life-threatening (and, trust me, you know it and that's really scary until it isn't). It's prevalent at the holidays which generate expectations that are very hard to fulfill leaving many stranded on its shores.

Darkness Visible isn't a cheerful book, but it's a brave one. Beautifully written it will give you insight into a landscape I hope none of you ever see.

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