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New Ways to Kill Your Mother

Writers and Their Families

Colm Tóibín

This book is available for download with iBooks on your Mac or iOS device, and with iTunes on your computer. Books can be read with iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.


In a brilliant, nuanced and wholly original collection of essays, the novelist and critic Colm Tóibín explores the relationships of writers 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. Tóibín, celebrated both for his award-winning fiction and his provocative book reviews and essays, and currently the Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Columbia, traces and interprets those intriguing, eccentric, often twisted family ties in New Ways to Kill Your Mother. 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 fascinating look at writers’ most influential bonds and a secret key to understanding and enjoying their work.

Publishers Weekly Review

Apr 16, 2012 – Through a series of accessible essays, lectures, and reviews that rove from Jane Austen to Brian Moore—many of which appeared in either the London or New York Review of Books— Tóibín explores the ambivalent relationships that many writers of the past few centuries have had with their families. The topics Tóibín (All a Novelist Needs: Essays on Henry James) addresses include the troubled bond between W.B. Yeats and his father, the fate of Thomas Mann’s children, and John Cheever’s alcoholic parenting and sexual hijinks. The book is divided into two sections: “Ireland,” containing chapters about Irish poets, playwrights, and novelists, such as John Synge and Sebastian Barry; and “Elsewhere,” which roves from Jorge Luis Borges to Tennessee Williams. With essays that prove more informative than argumentative, along with useful minibiographies of important authors, Tóibín excels when discussing craft, such as in the opening essay, which compares structural devices in the novels of Jane Austen and Henry James that for some reason necessitate an absent mother. Though chock-full of biographic detail that will interest ardent readers, Tóibín unfortunately resists drawing conclusions from the various case studies. But overall, given their figurative patricidal, matricidal, fratricidal, and infanticidal tendencies, one ought to be thankful not to have a writer in the family.
New Ways to Kill Your Mother
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  • $11.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Literary Criticism
  • Published: Jun 12, 2012
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • Seller: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc.
  • Print Length: 352 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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