Mad, Bad, Dangerous to Know
Colm Toibin

Book cover image

Narrated By: Colm Tóibín

Duration: 6 hours and 6 minutes

What to expect

Penguin presents the audiobook edition of Mad, Bad, Dangerous to Know written and read by Colm Tóibín.

'A a necessary evil.' Stephen Dedalus in Ulysses

In Mad, Bad, Dangerous to Know, Colm Tóibín turns his incisive gaze to three of Ireland's greatest writers, Oscar Wilde, W.B. Yeats and James Joyce, and their earliest influences: their fathers. From Wilde's doctor father, a brilliant statistician and amateur archaeologist, who was taken to court by an obsessed lover in a strange premonition of what would happen to his son; to Yeats' father, an impoverished artist and brilliant letter-writer who could never finish apainting; to John Stanislus Joyce, a singer, drinker and story-teller, a man unwilling to provide for his large family, whom his son James memorialised in his work.

Colm Tóibín 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 they surface in their work.

If there is a more brilliant writer than Tóibín working today, I don't know who that would be - Karen Joy Fowler

Toibin is a supple, subtle thinker, alive to hints and undertones, wary of absolute truths - New Statesman

A consistently revealing look at how writers' relationships have influenced their work - Sunday Telegraph on 'New Ways to Kill Your Mother'

A wide-ranging and enlightening study of the potentially stifling family and the individual spirit of the writer - Sunday Times on 'New Ways to Kill Your Mother'


Literary essays, Family history, tracing ancestors, Literary studies: general, Literary studies: poetry & poets, Literary studies: fiction, novelists & prose writers

Listen to a sample

There is something interesting and intriguing to be found on almost every page


Subtle, witty and often deeply moving

New Statesman

Full of insight and intrigue


Searching, funny, generous

Irish Times

Toibin has a hawk-like eye for literary subtleties, and a generosity towards his subjects that is warm and unacademic.