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Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  27,006 ratings  ·  2,528 reviews
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. ...more
Paperback, 84 pages
Published January 8th 1992 by Vintage (first published September 4th 1990)
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Apr 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: xx2018-completed
This very small volume was not an easy read. Mr. Styron eases us into his own story by relating stories of other writers and artists who experienced deep depression. Some made it through but most did not. His stories are liberally laced with a depth of understanding that he acknowledged could only come to those who have experienced it.

We are not talking about a few days or even depression over a week or two, but rather months where the elevator keeps going down no matter how many times one thump
Ahmad Sharabiani
Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness, William Styron

Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness is a memoir by American writer William Styron, about his descent into depression, and the triumph of recovery, First published in December 1989.

It is among the last books published by Styron, and is widely considered one of his best, and most influential works. Darkness Visible also helped raise awareness for depression, which was relatively unknown at the time.

In October 1985, American author William Sty
Darkness Visible: When the Question is Whether Life is Worth Living

William Styron photo Styron_zps05c06a10-1.jpg

William Styron, (June 11, 1925 – November 1, 2006)

 photo Masks_zps0431efb0.jpg
"Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.--Edmund Kean, (4 November 1787 – 15 May 1833), celebrated Shakespearean actor

Milton's Paradise Lost photo MiltonDarkness_zpsb333971b-1.jpg

Preamble-January 18, 2015

It is 1:20am cst. My thoughts swirl over the important content of Styron's brief memoir originally delivered as a lecture in Baltimore, 1989. The information contained in this little vol
Jul 03, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 02, 2007 rated it did not like it
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
Aug 07, 2021 rated it it was amazing
There’s No Good Word For It

We have no word for this condition. If indeed it is a single condition at all. More likely each case of this mental malady is unique and can’t be properly categorised in general terms. ‘Depression’ is a medical euphemism for a complex constellation of human suffering. Not even the highly articulate William Styron feels he can describe his own experience adequately.

All the pros agree that something has gone wrong chemically in the brain. But beyond that they can only g
Dec 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
“The disease of depression remains a great mystery. It has yielded its secrets to science far more reluctantly than many of the other major ills besetting us.”

“Mysterious in its coming, mysterious in its going, the affliction runs its course, and one finds peace.”

William Styron’s Darkness Visible is an inspiring, informative and well-written memoir. This short book provides an in-depth understanding and vivid portrayal of the dark and painful phase and “those states of excruciating near-paralysi
Jim Fonseca
This memoir is almost a handbook about dealing with depression. So be aware that THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS because I think the information is too important to worry about how much of the story I reveal. This is not a book you read for the plot. Although I’m fortunate to not be in either of these situations, I think it’s a ‘must read’ if you suffer from severe depression or if someone you care about suffers.


In any case, we know the story from the blurbs before we begin: a famous author, abou
Aug 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Jonathan O'Neill
Dec 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
4.5 ⭐

“There is a region in the experience of pain where the certainty of alleviation often permits superhuman endurance…. In depression this faith in deliverance, in ultimate restoration, is absent.”

Darkness Visible is a very personal and candid account of William Styron’s own experience with depression. I found exactly what I was looking for in this book. William has the talent as a writer to give proper expression to depression, an experience that has been, inherently, very hard for victi
As someone who has suffered from an eating disorder and PTSD, I consider Darkness Visible an inspiring read. Only by sharing our stories of struggle and recovery can we destigmatize mental illness, ranging from bipolar disorder to schizophrenia to obsessive-compulsive disorder. William Styron's memoir about his battle with depression and suicidal ideation serves as one of the first of its kind, highlighting his courage to shed light on a topic often darkened by society.

With personal and raw pros
Aug 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Many years ago I read two powerful novels. One was a gripping story of an impossible moral dilemma, called Sophie's Choice; and the other was a controversial fictionalized account of a real-life slave revolt which occurred in Virginia in 1831, led by slave and fiery preacher, called The Confessions of Nat Turner. I became a fan of the author of these novels, William Styron. When I discovered that he had also written an account of his struggle with severe depression, I knew I wanted to read it.

Theresa Alan
Sep 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Anyone who has ever battled depression will recognize him or herself in Styron's words. Despite all his accomplishments, the depression made him feel unworthy of recognition and made clear thinking difficult. The language he uses reminds me of books written in the 1940s, but this was published in 1990. This is a short but poignant memoir. ...more
Feb 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mental-health
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
Feb 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes, reading a book that it's not in your comfort zone, can be a breath of fresh air.
My roommate bought this book and it seemed interesting. So, of course, the curious part of me wanted to read it.
It was a book about depression and suicide. And yeah, maybe you're wondering why did I read something about those sad human beings in the book and their actions. The answer to that question is "I don't know". Maybe because I wanted to know more, to find answers to my own questions. To know what
Apr 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir, grief
A wonderful, harrowing portrait of Styron's decent into a deep depression that blindsided him at the age of 60. Styron had been enormously successful in his career as a novelist and essayist, but a constellation of events plunged him into a melancholy from which he could not extract himself. When this book was first published in 1990, I avoided it because I was having a crisis of my own and felt that living through the same with Styron might not be healthy for me. Though my experience was not ne ...more
Hiba Arrame
Feb 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This was planned to be a buddy read with
but I ended up finishing it before he could even start it.. Because that's the kind of friends I am xD
Now, for the book, it was simply AMAZING, I just loved it, and loved how it spoke to me on so many levels, I loved the willingness of the author to share such an experience, as though he wants to tell everyone out there who suffers from depression that they can get through it safe and sound if only they had
Jun 05, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Timothy Urgest
Oct 16, 2020 rated it liked it
The madness of depression is, generally speaking, the antithesis of violence. It is a storm indeed, but a storm of murk.
Feb 01, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
In Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness, William Styron endeavours to describe the undescribable. You have to read it to fully comprehend its importance and significance. Thus, it is definitely a must-read for everyone!

''Depression, most people know, used to be termed "melancholia," a word which appears in English as early as the year 1303 and crops up more than once in Chaucer, who in his usage seemed to be aware of its pathological nuances.

"Melancholia" would still appear to be a far more ap
Lee Klein
Dec 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Graceful flowing prose about overcoming suicidal depression.
Ian Beardsell
Author William Styron (Sophie's Choice) takes us on his personal journey through a terrible episode of depression that hit him in later middle age. What is most interesting about his exploration of this disease of the mind, is his ability to describe the feelings and sensations that accompany the darkness of spirit. These are quite difficult to describe accurately, as victims of depression can well attest.

Generalized anxiety and depression run through the male side of my family. I have experien
May 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
William Styron is a beloved author having written such classics as The Confessions of Nat Turner and Sophie's Choice.

I read 'Nat' soon after it was published (1967) and neither remember it or this author's wonderful writing style.

Needless to say I knew nothing about his descent into a very dark depression. This book chronicles that descent. At first I was nervous about reading this book because my mother was bipolar, my paternal grandfather suffered from serious depression, and my sister died be
Sandra Tadros
Nov 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Highly recommend 👌🏻
Feb 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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,
Feb 04, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
Sam Quixote
Sep 18, 2011 rated it liked it
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
J.L.   Sutton
Dec 13, 2015 rated it liked it
This was my second reading of Styron's memoir. I was able to identify with parts here, but unfortunately it didn't seem as compelling this time around. ...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.

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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.” 400 likes
“The pain of severe depression is quite unimaginable to those who have not suffered it, and it kills in many instances because its anguish can no longer be borne. The prevention of many suicides will continue to be hindered until there is a general awareness of the nature of this pain.” 213 likes
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