Mad, Bad, Dangerous to Know

Narrated by: Colm Toibin
Length: 6 hrs and 7 mins
4 out of 5 stars (32 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

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’ father, was perhaps the most quintessentially Irish, widely loved, garrulous, a singer, and a 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. 

©2018 Colm Toibin (P)2018 Simon & Schuster

What listeners say about Mad, Bad, Dangerous to Know

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Eminently re-readable

Beautiful, compelling, and glowing throughout with the brilliance and humanity of the author and his subjects. I will reread (i.e., re-listen to) this book and also return to the works of Wilde, Yeats, and, particularly, Joyce, whose father—I now know—lives and breathes in the pages of his novels.

2 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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I am mad, sad, and disappointed in this book.

This author simply did not use his prodigious character insights as previously revealed in, for example, Testament of Mary. I was hoping for a strong understanding of the character of the three fathers, and instead got a rather awestruck presentation of how their awfulness (and they were, indeed, awful) influenced their sons' works. The book thus is more literary analysis than character analysis, and I was looking for the latter. These three fathers got very gentle treatment from Toibin. I gave the performance three stars only because I enjoy listening to his voice, but I would not recommend this book, except to someone who is looking for the aforesaid literary analysis.

1 person found this helpful

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Breathless

Why did the author go from a quiet whisper almost as if out of breath to full volume. The sound engineer really earned his pay on this one.

I wish there had been more depth in each of the portraits and comparisons and contrasts, which were excellent. What the author presented was marvelous and insightful, though. Recommended.

1 person found this helpful