New Ways To Kill Your Mother

Writers and Their Families
New Ways To Kill Your Mother: Writers and Their Families. Scribner. Jun. 2012. c.288p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781451668551. $26. LIT
Tóibín (The Master) is perhaps better known for his novels and short stories, but he also writes nonfiction and contributes to literary reviews. The pieces in this collection, which includes three essays originally given as lectures, were all previously published. They examine familial influence on writers in relation to their general output more than in relation to particular works, though Tóibín often intersperses quotations from the writers' works and letters. The pieces are grouped here by nationality of the writers examined, starting with those who, like him, are Irish—the title comes from his essay about J.M. Synge. These are scholarly and learned essays, to be read slowly and digested; the pieces that began as lectures are dense and not that easy to follow. All the pieces presuppose knowledge of the writers and their works. That being said, there is a lot of intriguing family history surrounding the authors discussed of which this reviewer was unaware. A couple of the essays, however, e.g., those on Yeats and Beckett, do not seem fully to support the author's theses.
VERDICT For the serious student of literature, this collection is worth the effort. [See Prepub Alert, 1/21/12.]
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