Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness

Styron, William

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

  • Date of entry: Feb-04-1997
  • Last revised: Nov-22-2009


It was during a trip to Paris in 1985 to accept a prestigious writing award that William Styron first realized that the melancholy which had been descending upon him for months was part of the onset of a crippling depression. In this brief book, Styron describes his own experience and eventual recovery, and touches upon the history and clinical aspects of depression as he talks about the many writers who have also been afflicted with this disease.

Styron gives both a retrospective account of the beginnings of his illness, and details his own theories (his abrupt intolerance for alcohol, a possible family history, characters in his early writings in whom he described symptoms strikingly similar to those he would develop himself years later) about the origins of his depression.


Though frequently pointing out the indescribable nature of his illness, Styron does an excellent job of giving the reader a picture of the "brainstorm" from which he suffered. There is a curious tone of pride evident in the book, particularly as Styron lists the many brilliant authors and historical figures who have been victims of depression and many of whom committed suicide. It does not detract from the book, but is interesting to note Styron’s slightly patronizing tone as he describes for the reader the secrets that only those who have joined this exclusive group can know.



Place Published

New York



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