In the Jaws of the Black Dogs: A Memoir of Depression

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9780060192884: In the Jaws of the Black Dogs: A Memoir of Depression

In this courageous memoir, John Bentley Mays gives us a riveting account of what it is to live in the shadow of debilitating depression.

Weaving intimate recollections with excerpts from the diaries he kept for thirty years, Mays illuminates the struggle that leads to breakdown and the uneasy truce achieved through psychotherapy. Along the way, he offers provocative commentary on the allure of cure, the cultural scripts of normality, and the distorting mirror of clinical language.

A literary tour de force that began with an award winning essay, In the Jaws of the Black Dogs is not an objective analysis composed from the safety of hindsight. It is a writer's attempt to evoke the silent and distorting malignancy--as well as the moments of reprieve--of the only life he has ever known. Above all, he offers readers hope: Although the black dogs cannot be entirely avoided, humor and the love and understanding of family and friends can keep the dogs at bay.

From In The Jaws of the Black Dogs

"This book is a life with the black dogs of depression. I have written it 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. For the depressed can never be sure we can finish anything we begin, or indeed certain of anything, except the black dogs' eventual return, and their terrible circling of the clearing's edge.

"There are a great many books about depression. This is not one of them. It is pain written, not observed; a depressive writer's writing, a testament transcribed from wounded flesh to paper in the clearing, before the black dogs' inevitable return."

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About the Author:

John Bentley Mays lives in Toronto with his wife and daughter. He is also the author of Power in the Blood; An Odyssey of Discovery in the American South.

From Publishers Weekly:

Reflecting on a lifetime of chronic depression, Mays, the visual arts critic of Toronto's Globe and Mail, charts his illness with reasoned intelligence and emotional honesty. His chronicle, a bestseller in Canada, begins in the American South, where Mays grew up on a cotton plantation he remembers for its physical beauty and sullen silences. When he was seven, his alcoholic father died (perhaps by murder). He and his mother moved to a nearby city to which he was unable to adjust. Five years later, Mays's mother succumbed to lung cancer. He recalls not weeping, and acknowledges the self-annihilation manifest in his inability to express griefAindeed, suicide beckoned as a sweet possibility. He went to live with his paternal grandparents and was later, in high school, voted most likely to succeed. Mays pursued English studies in college and graduate school, aiming for a career as a scholar, imagining he could sustain himself in a world from which he felt increasingly estranged. In 1968, he attempted to kill himself while he was in a doctoral program, leading to his hospitalization and the first of two courses of therapyAwhich have enabled him to achieve periods of normality, though the dogs of depression always lurk. A strong religious faith, a solid marriage and his writing career have provided Mays with further emotional support. Though his prose can be so elliptical that some important events and figures (including his wife and step-daughter) slip through the gaps, implicit in Mays's story, as in William Styron's Darkness Visible, is his enduring courage in the face of unrelenting mental illness. (July)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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