While critics like Dwight Garner in NYT below are rightly praising Colm Tóibín's New Ways To Kill Your Mother: Writers and Their Families [Kindle], they don't say how wisely and naturally he reveals hidden or ignored gay themes in those authors' work.
"The book stalks its themes through proddings of the work and lives of writers from W. B. Yeats, Samuel Beckett and Roddy Doyle (to name a few of the Irish) through Jorge Luis Borges, Tennessee Williams and John Cheever. In one chapter Mr. Toibin compares the writing of James Baldwin and Barack Obama, men who grew up without fathers and learned to, he says, “make it up as they went along.”
"His essential point, driven home in an essay about all the motherless heroes and heroines in the novels of Henry James and Jane Austen, is that “mothers get in the way of fiction; they take up the space that is better filled by indecision, by hope, by the slow growth of a personality.” To put it another way, he writes, “The novel is a ripe form for orphans.”
"Fathers as well as mothers need metaphorical slaying. Among this book’s highlights is an essay about Yeats’s tangled relationship with his father, a frustrated writer. The elder Yeats repeatedly sent his famous son short stories and other writing and received mostly silence in return. His letters are filled with squirm-inducing implorings, like, “Did you get my ‘poem’?” and “Why don’t you tell me about my play?”
"For Beckett, killing his father meant rejecting the work of his literary predecessors in Ireland. For the novelist Hugo Hamilton, it meant rejecting the Irish language itself in favor of English. For Baldwin, it meant talking trash about Hemingway and Faulkner.
"Mr. Toibin has a collage artist’s gift for quotation. Here is Thomas Mann, discussing his son, Klaus: “For an author, sons are an embarrassment, as if characters in his novel had come to life.” Here is Yeats on the flighty mother of an artist friend: “She makes me think of lumpy beds, Russian fleas and ipecacuanha wine.”
The critic for The Telegraph says:
"Delicacy is one of Tóibín’s great strengths as a novelist, and it’s here in abundance, too. Parallels are adroitly, teasingly drawn out, then knotted together with the lightest of touches. The result is a book that illuminates, startles and delights."