In a brilliant, nuanced, and wholly original collection of essays, the best-selling and award-winning author of Brooklyn and The Empty Family offers a fascinating exploration of famous writers’ relationships to their families and their work.
From Jane Austen’s aunts to Tennessee Williams’s mentally ill sister, the impact of intimate family dynamics can be seen in many of literature’s greatest works. In New Ways to Kill Your Mother, Colm Tóibín - celebrated both for his award-winning fiction and his provocative book reviews and essays, and currently the prestigious Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Columbia - traces and interprets those intriguing, eccentric, often twisted family ties.
Through the relationship between W.B. Yeats and his father, Thomas Mann and his children, and J.M. Synge and his mother, Tóibín examines a world of relations, richly comic or savage in its implications. In Roddy Doyle’s writing on his parents, Tóibín perceives an Ireland reinvented. From the dreams and nightmares of John Cheever’s journals, Tóibín illuminates this darkly comic misanthrope and his relationship to his wife and his children. “Educating an intellectual woman,” Cheever remarked, “is like letting a rattlesnake into the house.”
Acutely perceptive and imbued with rare tenderness and wit, New Ways to Kill Your Mother is a thought-provoking look at writers’ most influential bonds and a secret key to reading and enjoying their work.
“Tóibín is an excellent guide through the dark terrain of unconscious desires.” (The Evening Standard)
"A consistently revealing look at how writers’ relationships with their families have influenced their work…Delicacy is one of Tóibín’s great strengths as a novelist, and it’s here in abundance, too. Parallels are adroitly, teasingly drawn out, then knotted together with the lightest of touches. The result is a book that illuminates, startles and delights.” (The Telegraph)
"Unfailingly warm and compassionate.” (The Irish Times)
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A Literary Box of Chocolates
Alluring Title, but Deceptive
The audience for this scholarly work of literary criticism is the academic community. The title implies something perhaps more playful. I wish I could have the title myself--and am sorry I didn't think it up first!
Like everything Toibin writes, the style is masterful, the insights fresh and intelligent. It is not fiction; rather, it is a collection of essays about well-known literary works, their authors, and their characters. It is not "enjoyable" in the sense of easy-reading. This is highbrow prose for literary scholars.
Honestly, I purchased the book because I thought it would be about Toibin's personal analysis and his own mother's effect on his life & his writing. Although it wasn't what I expected, it's full of character analysis and the relationship of fictional mothers & fathers, aunts and stepmothers as well as the relationships of actual parents and their writer-children. Complex and engrossing.
- Thoughtful Reader