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Book Review: Darkness Visible - A Memoir of Madness by William Styron
- Darkness Visible A Memoir of Madness;
- Hell in a Cold Place.
- Darkness Visible A Memoir of Madness.
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Reviewing memoirs can be quite difficult, as this is someone's life experience after all. I am basing my review, not on the writing style, but rather on how the book helped me. Darkness Visible was recommended to me as a book to further help me understand what my loved one is going through and while Darkness Visible is a memoir of William Styron's depressive episode, it did not in any way help me understand more than I already do.
Let me try to explain. Mood Disorders vary from person to person and in this instance alcohol was used and created a dual diagnosis, so to speak.
Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness
From a reader's perspective Darkness Visible is an intriguing look into someone spiraling downwards into depression. From the view point of me reading this to better understand depression, it did not, which is why I am rating the book a 3. Styron tries to explain what severe depression feels like in a long essay.
Some revealing passages here, and, on the whole, I think he probably succeeds in trying to put across to readers who have never experienced depression some sense of what this disease does to someone. My lowish rating is a reflection as always of my experience of reading it not of my opinion of its independent worth and is a result of my disappointment in not finding much new here.
That, in turn, almost surely stems from a better understanding in the lay population of depression itself now than when Styron was writing in the late 80s. This is my second read of this book and it's been a long time between. I read it in 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. Although I can't share Styron's optimistic, happy ending that most people can be cured of depression, he does give real, understandable explanations of how it can feel, that can be understood by someone who has not suffered through it.
This is a tiny book, but it is one of the most powerful descriptions of depression I have ever read. In October of , Styron is in Paris to accept an award, when he realizes he is plunging into a deep, dark depression. He ends up hospitalized, and with the help of many professionals, he regains his sanity. With the use of actual suicides, from Randall Jarrett, the poet, to Abbie Hoffman, he examines the causes and the effect it has on the mind.
The despair that grows deeper with each hour, until it seems there is no end to it.
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Styron stopped drinking, and blamed his rapid descent into the deep dark hole of depression on this fact. As one who has suffered and battled with depression, I fully understood his despair, and the thoughts that tormented him. I applauded his recovery, and was cheered by the thought that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and it's not the oncoming train.
I received this from Net Galley for review. Thank you! Author explains very clearly and emphatically how mental illness is trivialized in our culture. Expectations are lowered if you've broken your jaw, but if you are depressed you are expected to work, socialize, as usual. Otherwise hard to emphasize with him.
Noonday Demon far better. What I liked most about Styron's book was his discussion of the onset of his depression, the fact that he first experienced it around age 60 and the possibility that it was delayed by a "lifetime" of alcohol abuse. He became suddenly, physically incable of taking a drink--and then came the depression shortly after. The book is an expansion of a lecture and then essay that appeared in Vanity Fair.
I was disappointed that it was so short, but evidently he said what he wanted to say on the subject. As a personal memoir of depression by a superb writer this is an extraordinarily useful book for giving someone insight into what depression feels like. This is a wonderfully conceived and written account of Styron's struggle with depression.
Despite the voracious honesty and exceptional narration construction, I think the most impressive aspect of the this short work is the bare-bones writing, which makes the 84 pages of text feel more like a thoughtful whisper. Even if one has little or no experience with chronic melancholia, this is a very illuminating and enjoyable read. For such a short book, this packs quite a punch, particularly for someone with experience of depression. In this honest and powerful memoir, Styron recounts his descent from a mild sense of unease into a vortex of madness and suicide.
His eloquent and accessible prose accurately depicts the workings of his mind and the gradual closing down of each facet of his physical and mental normality, until he is hospitalized on the verge of killing himself. Throughout his description of his own experience he also muses on literary friends' illness and suicides, the artistic tendency to madness, the mundanity of the word 'depression', the dangers of antidepressant drugs versus their merits, and the attitudes of others around him. Styron does not claim to be an expert on these issues but addresses them thoughtfully and fairly, making no pretence at speaking for every sufferer of this illness but instead encouraging understanding and compassion.
In the end, the message is also one of hope - if you can survive the crisis point there is light at the end of the tunnel and normality and happiness will eventually return. This is a very slim volume, just 84 pages long, which started life as a lecture given at a symposium sponsored by the Department of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
It was later developed into a piece for Vanity Fair before being published as a book. Styron was hit by serious depression at the age of 60, and describes most evocatively his own struggle with the life-threatening illness from first symptoms, through his treatment, his brush with suicide, hospitalisation to eventual cure. Along the way he includes the stories of friends and others so afflicted - many of them also writers. It's the honesty of the book that makes it so compelling.
It was one of the first "insider" accounts of depression, and captures extremely well just what it feels like. You have to have been there to know.
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I have examined all aspects of this volume and find no flaws whatsoever. Note:Your Satisfaction is Guaranteed. If you are not completely happy, we will refund your money immediately. Books purchased before 11am EST normally shipped same day.
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