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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 Skippy's 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 basketballplaying 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 sorta dies
As Paul Murray ends his novel "Skippy Dies" the skeletal remnants of a character for whom Skippy dies deliberates on her own ending to find a new beginning: "once upon a time they were all part of one superstory, except that it got broken up into a jillion different pieces,that's why no story on its own makes any sense, and so what you have to do is weave it all back together, my story into your story, our stories into all the other people's we know, until you've got something that to God or whoever might look like a letter or even a whole word." Or, a culminating doughnut that she bites into; thus reconnecting with the sugary world of stories she is just about to end.
Murray's novel begins with Skippy's end, his ignominious death at Ed's, a doughnut shop. The story then spins backwards in time to trace the events and people who led to this sad demise of a young man, through the rites of passage at his boarding school in Dublin, Ireland. Teacher and students receive accurate portrayals of the jejune and often animalistic atmosphere that pervades the life at a boys' school, with nicknames, insults, pranks, and events that live on far beyond the impetuous acts and personas that define them. To read of Howard Fallon's struggles with teaching the lessons on the war to end all wars as he recites "In Flanders Field" to his students taps into the core of this novel-- a story about people who are struggling to be remembered, to mark their place, to live on beyond the momentary struggles that have brought them low; a story about people who want new stories, grand ones, to be recorded and retold with vigor and pride. As the story unfolds so do hopes and dreams of those who wish to spin such tales, often out of control with tragic and fractious results, and sometimes into wishful refrains like the quote with which I started. And when the story ends, it begins again. Murray has told a good one here, one to be remembered.
Enjoyable read. It's a bit depressing at times, but overall it's a great coming-of-age story and and entertaining read.
Intelligent, funny, sad and exceptionally well written, I was riveted. You can see some shades of James Joyce in the writing which is always interesting. Highly recommended.