Melissa Maerz
June 15, 2012 AT 04:00 AM EDT

New Ways to Kill Your Mother

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Colm Toibin
publisher
Scribner
genre
Nonfiction

We gave it an B+

They mess you up, your mum and dad. So said the poet Philip Larkin, and Tóibín must agree. In this lively exploration of writers and their families, the Irish novelist argues that Yeats and Beckett had to imagine the symbolic deaths of their domineering parents before they could write about their homeland. Elsewhere in New Ways To Kill Your Mother, he takes on closeted gay dads (Cheever) and absent mothers (Austen) with great biographical anecdotes. There’s more storytelling than analysis, but the gossip is fascinating. Let’s just say Thomas Mann’s family is one that both Freud and V.C. Andrews would’ve loved. B+

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