Monday, September 20, 2010

Skippy Dies

Hello Flower.

It's not a good day for Daniel "Skippy" Juster. He's got a rival in love in the school psychotic, he's sensitive, doesn't have too many friends, he's stuck in Dublin in an all-boys Catholic prep school obsessed with branding itself and this afternoon he's going to choke to death on a doughnut. Now onto page 2. The next 655 pages* have Ruprecht Van Doren, the chubby genius and Skippy's best friend and roommate solving what Ruprecht thinks is Skippy's murder while maintaing his determination to open a portal into a parallel universe using ten-dimensional string theory.

Do not groan and/or turn away! It is another crime solving kid and this novel is all about 14 year old boys but it is not a YA novel I swear. If it means anything to you Skippy was on this years Man Booker longlist.

Skippy Dies is a radiant look at life as a 14 boy year old surrounded by 14 year old boys (I have 5 brothers so I feel entitled to insert a gigantic, released from the soul "ICK" right here.) and while that isn't pretty Paul Murray's mighty talent makes it so very funny, painful, tender and smart. This is a novel that will make you laugh but just below that is a powerful picture of children's ever changing relationships with themselves, each other and the adults that populate their world. From Skippy's death scene through the end of the book every moment you share with Skippy, Ruprecht and Co. is delightfully satisfying.

Delightful teenage boys? Trust me that is no oxymoron.

If you cannot bring yourself to let loose on Skippy Dies and despite my adoring the novel I can understand why a book about adolescent boys might not being alluring, then read Murray's matchless novel An Evening of Long Good-byes instead. It is wonderful. You'll laugh, you'll cry--- from laughing more--- and you'll wish it doesn't end. Charles Hythloday's sad realization that he must work when all he wants is to be a retired country gentlemen is a comic joy. Really. This is being told to you by someone with a high threshold of humor when it comes to books.


P.S. I am curious about why the publisher of Faber and Faber decided to published Skippy simultaneously as a hardcover and a boxed, 3 volume set of paperbacks. I wonder which is selling better?

*Not to worry about the length of the book if the page count concerns you. The hardcover is a smaller trim size than the standard adult hardcover and the margins are big. If books followed the rules of dog years then this hardcover would really only be about 350 pages.

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