An intimate study of three of Ireland’s greatest writers from one of its best-loved contemporary voices
‘A father…is a necessary evil.’ Stephen Dedalus in Ulysses
In Mad, Bad, Dangerous to Know Colm Toibin takes three of Ireland’s greatest writers – Oscar Wilde, W.B. Yeats and James Joyce – and examines their earliest influences: their fathers. With his inimitable wit and sensitivity, Toibin introduces us to Wilde Senior, the philandering doctor whose libel case prefigured that of his son; the elder Yeats, an impoverished artist who never finished a painting; and to John Stanislaus Joyce, the hard-drinking, storytelling father of James, who couldn’t feed his own family. This is an illuminating study of how each of these men cast a long shadow not only over the lives of their famous sons, but over the works for which they are celebrated and cherished.
‘Astonishing to read. Toibin has a hawk-like eye for literary subtleties, and a generosity towards his subjects that is warm’ Sunday Times
‘Funny, exciting, illuminating, wonderful, so engaging. Tells us more than a little about our own selves along the way’ Irish Times
‘There is something interesting and insightful on almost every page’ Observer
‘Sparkling, subtle, witty and often deeply moving . . . A classic’ Fintan O’Toole, New Statesman
‘Scintillating, imaginative, enlightening and powerfully moving throughout’ Roy Foster, Spectator