A tragic comedy of epic sweep and dimension, Skippy Dies wrings every last drop of humour and hopelessness out of life, love, mermaids, M-theory, the poetry of Robert Graves, and all the mysteries of the human heart.
Why does Skippy, a fourteen-year-old boy at Dublin's venerable Seabrook College, end up dead on the floor of the local doughnut shop?
Could it have something to do with his friend Ruprecht Van Doren, an overweight genius who is determined to open a portal into a parallel universe using ten-dimensional string theory?
Could it involve Carl, the teenage drug dealer and borderline psychotic who is Skippys rival in love?
Or could "the Automator", the ruthless, smooth-talking headmaster intent on modernizing the school, have something to hide?
Why Skippy dies and what happens next is the subject of this dazzling and uproarious novel, unraveling a mystery that links the boys of Seabrook College to their parents and teachers in ways nobody could have imagined. With a cast of characters that ranges from hip-hop-loving fourteen-year-old Eoin "MC Sexecutioner Flynn to basketball-playing midget Philip Kilfether, packed with questions and answers on everything from Ritalin, to M-theory, to bungee jumping, to the hidden meaning of the poetry of Robert Frost, Skippy Dies is a heartfelt, hilarious portrait of the pain, joy, and occasional beauty of adolescence, and a tragic depiction of a world always happy to sacrifice its weakest members. As the twenty-first century enters its teenage years, this is a breathtaking novel from a young writer who will come to define his generation.
Skippy and Ruprecht are having a doughnut-eating race one
evening when Skippy turns purple and falls off his chair. It is a
Friday in November, and Eds is only half full; if Skippy makes a
noise as he topples to the floor, no one pays any attention. Nor is
Ruprecht, at first, overly concerned; rather he is pleased, because
it means that he, Ruprecht, has won the race, his sixteenth in a
row, bringing him one step closer to the all-time record held by
Guido The Gland LaManche, Seabrook College class of 93.
Apart from being a genius, which he is, Ruprecht does not have all that much going for him. A hamster-cheeked boy with a chronic weight problem, he is bad at sports and most other facets of life not involving complicated mathematical equations; that is why he savours his doughnut-eating victories so, and why, even though Skippy has been on the floor for almost a minute now, Ruprecht is still sitting there in his chair, ...
With a masterful sleight of hand, Paul Murray has turned adolescence into a magical realist wonderland. This isn't Harry Potter, however - these kids are dealing with porn and drugs and lots of other heavy-duty reality. Murray navigates freely through multiple points of view, conveying the omnivorous flexibility of the boys' mental landscape and the way they exist as a sort of collective consciousness... I should say that before I began to discern flaws in the book, I had already entered deeply into it, so that my criticisms were in dialog with the themes and agendas of the novel itself. The technicolor picture Skippy Dies paints of adolescence is so engaging that by the time I made it to "Ghostland" I had already drunk the proverbial Kool-aid - the spiked punch at the Hop - and was ready to follow Paul Murray anywhere.
(Reviewed by Jennifer G Wilder).
What is Robert Graves doing, you might ask, in a book about rowdy teen boys? His presence is pervasive from the very first chapter, when the mysterious and beautiful new geography teacher, Aurelie, talks to Howard the Coward about how to get his history students engaged with the First World War:
"You should read them Robert Graves," she says.
"He was in the trenches," she replies; then adds, after a pause, "He was also one of the great love poets."
Robert Graves (1895-1985), author of many works including I, Claudius, is perhaps most famous for his memoir, Goodbye to All That, first published in 1929 when he was 34. The memoir lays out the early traumas of life at Charterhouse, a venerable public ...
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