Killing the Black Dog

A Memoir of Depression

Les Murray

Farrar, Straus and Giroux Paperbacks

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In 1988, shortly after moving from Sydney back to his birthplace in the rural New South Wales hamlet of Bunyah, Les Murray was struck with depression. In the months that followed, the “Black Dog” (as he calls it) ruled his life. He raged at his wife and children. He ducked a parking ticket on grounds of insanity, and begged a police officer to shoot him rather than arrest him. For days on end he lay in despair, a state in which, as he puts it precisely, “you feel beneath help.”

Killing the Black Dog is Murray’s recollection of those awful days: brief, pointed, wise, and full of beauty in the way of his poetry. The prose text—delicately balanced between personal and informative—gives a glimpse of the imprint that depression can leave on a life. The accompanying poems show their roots in his crisis—a crisis from which, he reports toward the close of this poignant book, he has fully recovered. “My thinking is no longer jammed and sooty with resentment,” he recalls. “I no longer wear only stretch-knit clothes and drawstring pants. I no longer come down with bouts of weeping or reasonless exhaustion. And I no longer seek rejection in a belief that only bitterly conceded praise is reliable.”

Killing the Black Dog is a crucial chapter in the life of an outstanding poet.

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Reviews

Praise for Killing the Black Dog

“ . . . equipped with a fierce moral vision and a sensuous musicality . . . [Murray] writes subtly about post­colonialism, urban sprawl and poverty and, in his most intimate poems, reminds us of the power of literature to transubstantiate grievance into insight. (His admirers have argued he ought to be considered for a Nobel.) But he is equally capable of writing emotionally simplistic and strangely soured poems in which the enraged adolescent emerges all but unmediated. This mercurial doubleness can make his work hard to categorize or describe: this is a mind at once revolutionary and reactionary. Or maybe just a poet who’s willing to show more id than most.” —Meghan O'Rourke, The New York Times Book Review
 
“Mr. Murray’s verse wears, from the waist up, a cosmopolitan, Philip Larkin-like wit. From the waist down, it dresses in worn dungarees and mud-caked boots. There’s a sense of rural astringency . . . Mr. Murray employs both rhyme and meter, but variably—he’s like a man walking a large, randy, omnivorous dog on a retractable leash. He can cinch his words tightly in an instant; he owns one of poetry’s most sensitive verbal choke collars . . . ” —Dwight Garner, The New York Times
 
“In the ever-diminishing world of contemporary poetry, Les Murray is one of the few undeniable titans.” —Emily Colette Wilkinson, The Washington Times
 
 

In the Press

‘Taller When Prone’ and 'Killing the Black Dog' by Les Murray - Book Review - NYTimes.com
The depression that the poet Les Murray suffered, detailed with self-effacing honesty in his memoir, “Killing the Black Dog,” informs the humor in his new collection, “Taller When Prone.”
- The New York Times

Les Murray and the Poetry of Depression - NYTimes.com
The Australian poet Les Murray offers a memoir of his depression, and a new book of verse.
- The New York Times


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About the Author

Les Murray

Les Murray is the author of twelve books of poetry. His collection Subhuman Redneck Poems received the T. S. Eliot Prize, and in 1998 he was awarded the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry, presented by Queen Elizabeth II. He lives in New South Wales, Australia.

Les Murray

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Les Murray

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Available Formats and Book Details

Killing the Black Dog
A Memoir of Depression
Les Murray

Trade Paperback

Trade Paperback
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Farrar, Straus and Giroux Paperbacks
March 2011
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9780374181062
ISBN10: 0374181063
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches, 96 pages, Index of Titles and an Index of First Lines
$13.00
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Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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