|
Movies Books Music Food Tv Shows Technology Politics Video Games Parenting Fashion Green Living more >

Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » Skippy Dies: A Novel » User review

A gentle Irishman, mighty odd

  • Aug 7, 2010
  • by
Rating:
+3
I had some trouble deciding on the number of stars for this review. Murray is a gifted writer, a wordsmith who can bring characters to life in a few pages, make you care about them as if they were real people, describing their physical characteristics, their character faults, and their secret fears in a way that few writers can. He gets the modern teen-aged boy down with great accuracy, their false bravado, their vicious competition, and their reluctance to let adults know anything about them. He is particularly good at their dialogue, if you can call it dialogue. His wicked satire had me hooting with laughter throughout the novel. It is a dark sort of humor that was particularly well suited to the Irish in me.

Still, this is a strange story, starting off with the climax in the first chapter, then playing out the build-up and the long denouement in separate sections. Certainly the plot goes into some strange places, at times making me wonder if he had gone completely off the tracks, on a Joycean meander through Dublin. He eventually pulls together a conventional plot, albeit with some rambles on the dark side. Murray includes literary references, a drug dealer who quotes Yeats, the history teacher's fixation with Robert Graves, but these are occasional, and completely beyond the comprehension or interest of the boys. He tries to draw a parallel between Skippy's infatuation with the frisbee girl and the quest for the white (or black) goddess, but he doesn't quite pull this off.

This is a terribly cynical picture of life at the opening of a new century. I don't deny the cruelty of boys, the omnipresence of profanity and pornography in their lives, and the willingness of some teachers to exploit them, but there is almost no decent person in this whole book, at least one whom the author considers decent. I don't know if the author believes that decency is a concept anyone could aspire to. He certainly includes a number of characters who project the outward signs of goodness, but he exposes their rotten core. There is some small hope for humanity in the final pages, when a few characters begin to see a future, or find courage (even Howard the coward, but the reader hears about this rather than experiencing his momentous moment). The good deeds happen almost as an aside, while the grim business of moving the school forward marches down the center stage. I cannot enthuse about this novel to female readers, since it is very much a male dominated story, nor could I recommend it to my teenagers, for I thought it was too cynical. Nevertheless, Murray has undeniable talent, and a story is not necessarily better for being less cynical. Four stars.

What did you think of this review?

Helpful
3
Thought-Provoking
3
Fun to Read
3
Well-Organized
3
Post a Comment
December 17, 2010
Great review! This book sounds like a great read. Have you checked out @RebeccaSchinsky's review of Skippy Dies? You might get a kick out of it.
 
1
More Skippy Dies: A Novel reviews
review by . July 30, 2010
Neither Hogwarts nor "Catcher in the Rye," this captures the "de-dreamification" of being a boy of fourteen and a teacher at twenty-eight. Murray sets this in a Catholic day & boarding school in Dublin, where he lives. The novel yesterday's been placed on the Booker Prize list, so it'll surely gain attention. It's long-- 660 pages to be divided into three volumes for its official release.       These handsomely watercolored covers add …
review by . December 10, 2010
   Imagine if the Harry Potter books were written for adults, set at an all-boys boarding school in Dublin, and had dirtier jokes and a more serious theme, and you’ll have the phenomenal Skippy Dies by Paul Murray. The titular event takes place in the book’s opening pages when fourteen-year-old Daniel “Skippy” Juster, one of Seabrook College’s punier students, dies on the floor of the local doughnut shop just moments after writing his final message on the …
review by . August 18, 2010
About a hundred pages into Skippy Dies, I put it down for the evening and, as I walked away from it, realized I missed it already. I'd grown fond of the book. Surely that's an odd emotion to feel for a comic novel, especially a good one as this one is. Comic novels may be funny, but above all, the best ones (Gulliver's Travels, for instance, or Ulysses) are savage: they take no hostages as they narrate the lives and antics of the characters contained inside them. And that's definitely true of Skippy. …
review by . September 20, 2010
I'm the product of an Irish Catholic boarding school for boys. In September 1968, at the tender age of 11, I left the warm (over-)protective bosom of home and family and became one of the 80 or so boys in the first year class at a Franciscan boarding school, about 25 miles north of Dublin, and 160 miles from home. The experience, particularly the first year, was incredibly brutal. But it was also entirely necessary, and completely transformative. I can trace back almost all of what I consider …
review by . March 04, 2011
posted in Cage
Skippy Dies broke a lot of my rules for literature and still allowed me to love it. I can't stand violence to children in what is, essentially, an entertainment. Really graphic, unhealthy sexual activity is another one that bothers me. Drug abuse is too hard for me to relate to and comes across as an author struggling for some sort of street cred. I'm really square and don't like being manipulated. And I can just picture the editor who leans across the desk to whisper to an aspiring …
About the reviewer
n ()
Ranked #663
Member Since: Sep 15, 2010
Last Login: Mar 31, 2012 06:33 PM UTC
Consider the Source

Use Trust Points to see how much you can rely on this review.

You
Glanafosha
Your ratings:
rate more to improve this
About this book

Wiki

It’s no spoiler to acknowledge that Skippy, the main character in Murray’s second novel, does indeed die, since the boy is a goner by page 5 of the prologue. Following his character’s untimely demise, Murray takes the reader back in time to learn more about the sweetly engaging Skippy—a 14-year-old student at a historic Catholic boys’ school in Dublin—and his friends Ruprecht, a near genius who is passionately interested in string theory; Mario, a self-styled lothario; and Dennis, the resident cynic. We also meet the girl with whom Skippy is hopelessly in love, Lori, and his bête noire, Carl, a drug-dealing, psychopathic fellow student who is also in love with Lori. The faculty have their innings, too, especially the history teacher Howard (the Coward) Fallon, who has also fallen in love—he with the alluring substitute teacher Miss McIntyre. And then there is the truly dreadful assistant principal, Greg Costigan. In this darkly comic novel of adolescence (in some cases arrested), we also learn about the unexpected consequences of Skippy’s death, something of contemporary Irish life, and a great deal about the intersections of science and metaphysics and the ineluctable interconnectedness of the past and the present. At 672 pages, this is an extremely ambitious and complex novel, filled with parallels, with sometimes recondite references to Irish folklore, with quantum physics, and with much more. Hilarious, haunting, and ...
view wiki

Details

ISBN-10: 0865479437
ISBN-13: 978-0865479432
Author: Paul Murray
Genre: Literature & Fiction
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Polls with this book
© 2014 Lunch.com, LLC All Rights Reserved
Lunch.com - Relevant reviews by real people.
()
This is you!
Ranked #
Last login
Member since
reviews
comments
ratings
questions
compliments
lists