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In the Jaws of the Black Dogs: A Memoir of Depression. [Paperback]

John Bentley. Mays


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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Penguin (1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140246509
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140246506
  • ASIN: B000LNN7O2
  • Product Dimensions: 21.3 x 14 x 2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 249 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #671,038 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From a Painfully Depressed Mind Comes a Warm & Honest Book! Oct. 17 2005
By Aimee Thor - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I related to so many areas of John Bentley's life. As I read this book I was touched and inspired, and reminded that I am not alone in my perpetual existential crisis. A more refreshing look at depression has not come along in many years. A truly beautiful book that could save lives!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars AN HONEST ACCOUNT BY ONE WHO ONLY LISTENS TO WAGNER Oct. 8 2011
By G. Charles Steiner - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
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.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Letting the Dogs Out Oct. 1 2009
By Rose Keefe - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
John Bentley Mays, visual arts critic of the Globe and Mail, suffers from chronic depression. 'In the Jaws of the Black Dogs' is his memoir of a life spent fighting the illness and its attending influences: emotional numbness and self-destructive urges.

Mays was born in the American South and lost both parents at an early age: his alcoholic father died under suspicious circumstances in 1947 and lung cancer killed his mother five years later. He could not weep at her death, an early sign of the disorder that he refers to as the coming of the black dogs. In 1968 he attempted suicide, leading to hospitalization and therapy. A good marriage, successful writing career, and firm religious faith anchored Mays somewhat and gave him much-needed doses of normalcy, but the black dogs continue to circle him, ready to rush in and bite without warning.

This is not a self-help book for coping with depression. The introverted approach and elliptical writing style make it a healing tool for the writer, not the reader. It's also not especially uplifting: there's no happy ending and Mays even admits in the forward that he is writing the book "in a clearing bounded by thickets roamed by the killing dogs, sometimes wondering, in the writing, whether I would complete it before they returned on silent paws to snatch the text and me away." But 'In the Jaws of the Black Dogs' is a brave and honest story of courage in the face of crippling mental illness.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars AN HONEST ACCOUNT BY ONE WHO ONLY LISTENS TO WAGNER July 31 2013
By G. Charles Steiner - Published on Amazon.com
This review is from: In the Jaws of the Black Dogs: A Memoir of Depression

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.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Too well written? Dec 5 2004
By KevinP - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
It's obvious from reading the first few pages that Mays is an extraordinary writing talent. This is not just another story from someone who suffers depression. It is so eloquently written that I had problems understanding what some of the words meant. His story is told in such vivid detail, with amazing use of the English language. A wonderful book, and very helpful to readers struggling with their own black dogs.

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