Fathers and sons

I’ve just finished Colm Tóibín’s book about the fathers of Oscar Wilde, W.B. Yeats and James Joyce. Very interesting but uneven work. Main conclusion is that all three were very strange men. William Wilde was an erratic (but formidable) polymath, John B. Yeats a talented but improvident painter who never finished a painting and never made a living, and John Stanislaus Joyce was a pompous wastrel and a drunk with a fine singing voice. And all three seem to have been terrible husbands. For their part, their talented sons all treated them ambivalently. It’s well known that having a famous father makes it difficult for sons. But being a famous son of an erratic or improvident father clearly has its problems too. Of the three, it was James Joyce who made serious artistic use of his father — there are recognisable aspects of John Stanislaus in Stephen Hero, Dubliners, Portrait of the Artist, Ulysses and Finnegans Wake and Tóibín has been good at spotting and excavating them.