From Colm Tóibín, the formidable award-winning author of The Master and Brooklyn, an illuminating, intimate study of Irish culture, history, and literature told through the lives and work of three men—William Wilde, John Butler Yeats, and John Stanislaus Joyce—and the complicated, influential relationships they had with their complicated sons.
Colm Tóibín begins his incisive, revelatory Mad, Bad, Dangerous to Know with a walk through the Dublin streets where he went to university—a wide-eyed boy from the country—and where three Irish literary giants also came of age. Oscar Wilde, writing about his relationship with his father, William Wilde, stated: “Whenever there is hatred between two people there is bond or brotherhood of some kind…you loathed each other not because you were so different but because you were so alike.” W.B. Yeats wrote of his father, John Butler Yeats, a painter: “It is this infirmity of will which has prevented him from finishing his pictures. The qualities I think necessary to success in art or life seemed to him egotism.” John Stanislaus Joyce, James’s father, was perhaps the most quintessentially Irish, widely loved, garrulous, a singer, and drinker with a volatile temper, who drove his son from Ireland.
Elegant, profound, and riveting, Mad, Bad, Dangerous to Know illuminates not only the complex relationships between three of the greatest writers in the English language and their fathers, but also illustrates the surprising ways these men surface in their work. Through these stories of fathers and sons, Tóibín recounts the resistance to English cultural domination, the birth of modern Irish cultural identity, and the extraordinary contributions of these complex and masterful authors.
Colm Tóibín is the author of nine novels, including The Blackwater Lightship; The Master, winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize; Brooklyn, winner of the Costa Book Award; The Testament of Mary; and Nora Webster, as well as two story collections. He is the Irene and Sidney B. Silverman Professor of the Humanities at Columbia University. Three times shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, Tóibín lives in Dublin and New York.
“Wise and resonant...Toibin presents an evocative, engaging portrait not only of ‘three prodigal fathers,’ as he calls them, but of Dublin in the 19th and early 20th centuries as ‘a place of isolated individuals, its aura shapeless in some way, a place hidden from itself, mysterious and melancholy.’" —Gregory Cowles, New York Times Book Review
"Three compelling portraits... a short but entertaining, thoroughly engaging study on the agony of filial influence.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"A vivid and knowledgeable depiction of nineteenth-century cultural life in the Irish capital…Tóibín portrays three giants of Irish literature and their city in a new and clarifying light.” —Booklist, (starred review)
“Despite the focus on fathers, the works of the sons pervade this book, and Tóibín illuminates them with fresh readings…this study balances dexterous narration and Tóibín’s scholarly familiarity with his subjects’ place in Irish political and social history.” —Publishers Weekly
“Mad, Bad, Dangerous to Know offers richly drawn portraits of fathers and sons, illuminating the influence rippling between generations…As charming as it is illuminating, Mad, Bad, Dangerous to Know provides a singular look at an extraordinary confluence of genius.” —Bookpage
"This gentle, immersive book holds literary scholarship to be a heartfelt, heavenly pursuit.” —Thomas Mallon, The Washington Post
"Juicy, wry and compelling... an entertaining and revelatory little book about the vexed relationships between these three pairs of difficult fathers and their difficult sons.” —Maureen Corrigan, The Wall Street Journal
“Both odd and wonderful…you will be…evocatively entertained, especially if you fancy Dublin, as Tóibín clearly does…Dublin’s streets, pubs, libraries and shops, for Tóibín, are lively with ghosts.” —Claude Peck, The Minneapolis Star Tribune
"These famous men and the fathers who helped shape them come alive in Tóibín's retelling, as do Dublin’s colorful inhabitants.” —Esquire
“An engaging study of influence, ambition, love—and their discontents.” —Brian Dillon, 4Columns