Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness

Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness

Paperback

By (author) William Styron

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  • Publisher: VINTAGE
  • Format: Paperback | 112 pages
  • Dimensions: 128mm x 190mm x 10mm | 100g
  • Publication date: 5 April 2001
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 0099285576
  • ISBN 13: 9780099285571
  • Sales rank: 18,434

Product description

This is a story of depression a condition that reduced William Styron from a person enjoying life and success as an acclaimed writer, to a man engulfed and menaced by mental anguish. With profound insight and remarkable candor, Styron tracks the progress of his madness, from the smothering misery and exhaustion, to the agony of composing his own suicide note and his eventual, hard-won recovery. Illuminating an illness that affects millions but which remains widely misunderstood, this book is about the darkness of depression, but it is also ultimately about survival and redemption.

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Author information

William Styron (1925-2006), a native of the Tidewater region of Virginia, was a graduate of Duke University and a veteran of the Marine Corps. His books include Lie Down in Darkness, The Long March, Set This House on Fire, The Confessions of Nat Turner, Sophie's Choice, This Quiet Dust, Darkness Visible, A Tidewater Morning and, most recently, The Suicide Run. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, the Howells Medal, the American Book Award and the Legion d'Honneur. With his wife, the poet and activist Rose Styron, he lived for most of his adult life in Roxbury, Connecticut, and in Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts.

Review quote

In the summer of 1985 William Styron was overtaken by persistent insomnia and a troubling sense of malaise - the first signs of a deep depression that would engulf his life and leave him on the brink of suicide. Darkness Visible takes us on an unprecedented journey into the realm of madness. It is an intimate portrait of the agony of Styron's ordeal, as well as a probing look at an illness that affects millions but is still widely misunderstood. Through his remarkable candour and powers of description comes a true understanding of the anguish of a desperate mind. Darkness Visible is a bold and an ultimately uplifting exploration of depression's dark reality.

Editorial reviews

Styron tells of his descent into clinical depression, later hospitalization, and recovery. Much of this slim (96-page) work appeared last year in Vanity Fair magazine. In 1984, Styron's 30 years of alcohol and more recent excessive tranquilizer intake (Halcion) combined to make alcohol poisonous to his system and deprived him totally of his friendly balm, the alcohol that he says allowed him to open up his works as a clear mind never could (he adds that he never wrote while drinking). Shortly thereafter, he went into depression, which he thinks may or may not have been tied in with going cold turkey off booze. He puts forth various genetic hints (his father had "battled the gorgon for much of his lifetime") and suggests buried childhood events to explain the origins of his illness. His depression would sweep over him late in the day, just at the time of the afternoon nap he could no longer achieve and apparently just before the hour of the first drink that he could no longer have. The depths of his depression carried him far beyond alcohol withdrawal and pill poisoning, Styron says. In general, the tour of the depression he renders is gripping, though simply as writing it could have done with more intense immediacy and searing detail. It's best when dramatizing a deepening stage in the illness, and it comes to a high point when Styron decides to kill himself and throws his private diary into the garbage. By then we are convinced that his illness is as he says, "so overwhelming as to be quite beyond expression." Only various lines from Dante, he thinks, come near to showing his experience. He admires his wile Rose for standing by him at his most obliterated, and we get a sense of uplift when his hospitalization and new drug begin to take hold. His scathing review of antidepressants seems just. Each victim of depression is unique, and we feel that Styron has shown us - in large strokes without getting as razor-edged as Robert Lowell - as much of his black pit as he can bear to show. (Kirkus Reviews)

Back cover copy

‘Tremendous writing… Honest and illuminating’ New York Times This is a story of depression a condition that reduced William Styron from a person enjoying life and success as an acclaimed writer, to a man engulfed and menaced by mental anguish. With profound insight and remarkable candor, Styron tracks the progress of his madness, from the smothering misery and exhaustion, to the agony of composing his own suicide note and his eventual, hard-won recovery. Illuminating an illness that affects millions but which remains widely misunderstood, this book is about the darkness of depression, but it is also ultimately about survival and redemption. ‘Hair-raising in the manner of a tale of horror by Edgar Allan Poe’ Daily Telegraph See also: The Confessions of Nat Turner