Styron's stirring account of his plunge into a crippling depression, and his inspiring road to recovery

In the summer of 1985, William Styron became numbed by disaffection, apathy, and despair, unable to speak or walk while caught in the grip of advanced depression. His struggle with the disease culminated in a wave of obsession that nearly drove him to suicide, leading him to seek hospitalization before the dark tide engulfed him.

Darkness Visible tells the story of Styron's recovery, laying bare the harrowing realities of clinical depression and chronicling his triumph over the disease that had claimed so many great writers before him. His final words are a call for hope to all who suffer from mental illness that it is possible to emerge from even the deepest abyss of despair and "once again behold the stars."

This ebook features a new illustrated biography of William Styron, including original letters, rare photos, and never-before-seen documents from the Styron family and the Duke University Archives.

ABOUT William Styron


    William Styron, widely considered one of the preeminent American writers of his generation, was born on June 11, 1925, in Newport News, Virginia, to W.C. and Pauline Styron. After high school, he attended Duke University, where he worked on his B.A. in literature.

    Styron’s first novel, Lie Down in Darkness, published when he was twenty-six years old, was a critical and commercial success, and the culmination of years spent perfecting his manuscript. After its publication, Styron lived in Europe for two years, where he was a founding member of The Paris Review. He also met and married his wife, Rose, with whom he went on to have four children. Styron’s second major novel, Set This House on Fire (1960), drew upon his time in Europe. He spent years writing the subsequent novel,The Confessions of Nat Turner (1967), which became his most celebrated—and most controversial—work, ultimately winning the Pulitzer Prize. Styron followed with another bestseller, Sophie’s Choice (1979), the winner of the 1980 National Book Award. That novel was made into an Academy Award–winning film of the same name. In 1985, Styron was beset by a deep clinical depression, which he wrote about in his acclaimed memoir, Darkness Visible (1990). His next book, A Tidewater Morning (1993), was perhaps his most autobiographical work of fiction.

    Styron’s fiction and nonfiction writings draw heavily from the events of his life, including his Southern upbringing, his mother’s death from cancer in 1939, his family history of slave ownership, and his experience as a United States marine. His works have garnered broad acclaim for their elegant prose and insights into human psychology. William Styron died on November 1, 2006.


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