The following is an edited version from my journal of April 17, 2001 where I record my first impressions of reading John Bentley Mays's "In the Jaws of the Black Dogs" for the first (and only) time:
I picked up John Bentley Mays's book yesterday morning and read a good deal of it in bed and then after work, I continued reading it, till I finished it off tonight. This is the first book this month I've been able to read amid all the distractions and interruptions in my life without losing focus. Last year I read "Where the Roots Reach the Water" by Jeffrey Smith, another book by a depressed man on the subject of depression, but I find John Bentley Mays's book, published four years earlier than Smith's, decidedly not only the better written book but also the more honest.
A couple years back I found cited on the Internet John Bentley Mays's book warning scarily that all potential readers who read his book might find themselves plunged into a state of the severest depression. The website propagandized potential readers to read Smith's book instead since, it said, it was less likely to produce a state of depression while reading it. Well, I found John Bentley Mays's handling of the subject of depression completely even-handed whereas Smith's book cut out all ties with the state of depression since he claimed he already had achieved the status of being "among the cured."
John Bentley Mays, like myself, tried Prozac and found it worked only for a brief time. Mays accepted his life as a depressed person finally, having spent at least four decades trying to overcome it.
I did not really understand Mays's religious faith just as I did not understand it in Smith's book either. All the talk about Christ and the traditional religious fervency expressed, to me, served merely as rhetorical filagree or decoration. His belief in God, his faith, never helped him in his depression or in his struggles against it. It was not made evident to me in this book why he needed to cling to such a mirage that served him little, but like Jeffrey Smith in his book, John Bentley Mays found a good woman and he married. He married -- despite his confessed bisexual tendencies.
Like me, John Bentley Mays has also read his Emile M. Cioran, though, unlike me, he's been influenced by Michel Foucault and (the pro Nazi philosopher) Heidegger.
John Bentley Mays is forthright about his philosophical premises and influences, and he has tried very hard to make an earnest, honest account of his life.
From reading this book, I learned Mr. Mays is a well-read, educated man who has done his research into all the latest scientific studies and psychological theories regarding the mind and depression. John Bentley Mays concludes that depression is a normal, human response to a mad, insensitive, so-called Enlightened, modern world.
Interestingly, too, John Bentley Mays listens to the music of Wagner. That is to say, he listens ONLY to the music of Wagner.