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Skippy Dies - Paul Murray

This is a very, very funny book. At times, it’s relentlessly funny. But then, …

‘Hmm, maybe you should have asked one of the nuns,’ Dennis remarks contemplatively. ‘Did you ask them, Ruprecht? Did you ask the nuns to show you their mound?’

I will suggest to you that, questions of aesthetics and all things literary aside, that it is, in fact, impossible for most male readers, straight or not straight, to avoid being caught up by the frequently juvenile boy-humor that runs rampant throughout Skippy Dies. Yes, it’s of the lowest form. Yes, it’s usually uninformed. And, yes, it’s by its very uninformed nature that it renders itself innocent. The humor, perhaps the novel’s saving grace, is almost entirely of the bathroom/bedroom/blowjob variety (The Three Bs of juvenile humor?)

On the downside, it is exactly the innocence of the boys of Seabrook College (an Irish, Catholic HS) which is at stake, particularly when considered against all the adults with their own Seabrook affiliations. While some of these adults are sympathetic characters, they are individually pathetic—cheaters, sexists, pedophiles, phonies, adult bully versions of their juvenile counterparts. That these adults, for the most part, get their just deserts ultimately, their suffering weighed against the suffering of the teenaged children doesn’t quite balance out.

‘It’s a good example of how history works,’ Howard says. ‘We tend to think of it as something solid and unchanging, appearing out of nowhere etched in stone like the Ten Commandments. But history, in the end, is only another kind of story and stories are different from the truth. The truth is messy and chaotic and all over the place. Often it just doesn’t make sense. Stories make things make sense, but the way they do that is to leave out anything that doesn’t fit. And often that is quite a lot.’
Unlike history, Skippy Dies doesn’t leave anything out. All the ends seem tied-up, even as it threatens a Lovely Bones sort of ending. Murray loads the text with little nuggets, often funny, as often, insightful, e.g. following a discussion of the origins of the science of communication in man’s quest to contact the dead: “After devoting itself for two world wars to perfecting the new methods of annihilation, did science no longer want to hear what the annihilated might have to say?”

There is a persistent feeling of Skippy Dies being a YA novel for As. It’s fun, not quite fast enough, one for the kid in you.