- Hardcover: 352 pages
- Publisher: Scribner; 1 edition (June 12, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1451668554
- ISBN-13: 978-1451668551
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,100,528 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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New Ways to Kill Your Mother: Writers and Their Families Hardcover – June 12, 2012
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“[Toibin possesses a] vast understanding of fiction and its uses, and a mind that processes novels and ideas like a rumbling supercomputer...Mr. Toibin is such an adept and morally serious close reader that his criticism becomes nearly as galvanizing as his fiction. There really aren’t, it turns out, any new ways to kill your mother, at least not artistically. But all the old ways, in Mr. Toibin’s telling, still work rather beautifully.”—Dwight Garner, New York Times
“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
“Like all fine critics, Tóibín inspires readers to go back to the work, and he brings a human aspect to the works of seemingly deracinated authors like Beckett and Jorge Luis Borges…It’s a pleasure to watch Tóibín rove through 19th and 20th-century literary history.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Tóibín excels when discussing craft…[New Ways to Kill Your Mother is] chock-full of biographic detail that will interest ardent readers.”—Publishers Weekly
“Unfailingly warm and compassionate.”—The Irish Times
“[A] lively exploration of writers and their families…Fascinating.”—Melissa Maerz, Entertainment Weekly
About the Author
Colm Tóibín was born in Ireland in 1955. He is the author of six novels including The Blackwater Lightship, The Master, winner of a Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and Brooklyn, winner of a Costa Book Award. Twice shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, Tóibín lives in Dublin and New York.
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Top customer reviews
Though the title might suggest a manual about matricide, Tóibín's new work is not about the act of murdering one's own mother. The author skillfully delves into the association between the portrayal of family relations in literature and the actual home lives of writers, and it can be as complex as it is absorbing. The title is metaphorical.
The relationship between writers, their chosen occupation and the part that it plays with their families is often like combat. It is to this absorbing topic that author Tóibín turns in his interesting collection of essays on writers and their mothers, fathers and other family members. Early into the book we see these words:
"The novel in English over the nineteenth century is filled with parents whose influence must be evaded or erased to be replaced by figures who operate either literally or figuratively as aunts, both kind and mean, both well-intentioned and duplicitous, both rescuing and destroying. The novel is a form ripe for orphans, or for those whose orphanhood will be all the more powerful for being figurative, or open to the suggestion, both sweet and sour, of surrogate parents."
After an interesting opening section with a look at Jane Austen, Henry James and s bit more, we find Tóibín's work arranged in two parts. In "Ireland", he reflects on the work of W.B. Yeats, Synge, Beckett, Brian Moore, Sebastian Barry and others. He writes about Thomas Mann, Jorge Luis Borges, Hart Crane, Tennessee Williams, and John Cheever in "Elsewhere," ending that section with some insight into the writings of James Baldwin and Barack Obama:
"James Baldwin's Notes of a Native Son, published in 1955, begins: `On the 29th of July, in 1943, my father died.' Baldwin was almost nineteen at the time. Barack Obama's Dreams from My Father, published in 1995, begins also with the death of his father: `A few months after my twenty-first birthday, a stranger called to give me the news.'"
As seen in that passage, the title of this book can be misleading, as Tóibín's essays are quite often concerned with the role of the father as much as the mother.
A good number of the essays found here were originally published in periodicals, including the New York Review of Books, the London Review of Books, and the Dublin Review, as is noted in the author's acknowledgements in the back of this book.
Colm Tóibín as the essayist reflects a certain asceticism, but he's as crafty a storyteller as Tóibín the novelist. For the reader, his most highly regarded fiction, The Blackwater Lightship,The Master, and The Heather Blazing, generally build up with a slow but sure gathering of events. There becomes a point with his novels that the reader becomes engaged, and it's this skilful cumulative result that makes his novels seem most believable. This reader had admittedly found Tóibín's highly acclaimed Brooklyn to be a "one-dimensional disappointment" when reviewed in 2009, but after reading his latest, it's a compelling thought to give that novel a second look.
Again,New Ways to Kill Your Mother is no simple summer beach read. But when you feel that your brain cells have been almost destroyed by the likes of the 'everyone-is-talking-about-it' Fifty Shades of Drivel series (and apologies if you're a die-hard fan), Colm Tóibín's 5-star book may go a long way to being cathartic, if only for the healing effect it will have on your thinking process.