Synopses & Reviews
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 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.
“Extravagantly entertaining....One of the great pleasures of this novel is how confidently [Paul Murray] addresses such disparate topics as quantum physics, video games, early-20th-century mysticism, celebrity infatuation, drug dealing, Irish folklore and pornography....Six hundred sixty-one pages may seem like a lot to devote to a bunch of flatulence-obsessed kids, but that daunting length is part and parcel of the cause to which Skippy Dies, in the end, is most devoted. Teenagers, though they may not always act like it, are human beings, and their sadness and loneliness (and their triumphs, no matter how temporary) are as momentous as any adults. And novels about them — if they're as smart and funny and touching as Skippy Dies — can be just as long as they like.” Dan Kois, The New York Times Book Review
“Murray's humor and inventiveness never flag. And despite a serious theme — what happens to boys and men when they realize the world isn't the sparkly planetarium they had hoped for — Skippy Dies leaves you feeling hopeful and hungry for life. Just not for doughnuts.” Entertainment Weekly
"Funny, tragic, thoroughly captivating....One of the most enjoyable books of the year." San Francisco Chronicle
"Skippy is so desperately, painfully alive that you hope the mere act of reading about him will save him....A virtuosic display you'd expect from a writer with the confidence to kill off his title character in the title." Radhika Jones, Time
About the Author
Paul Murray was born in 1975. He studied English literature at Trinity College in Dublin and creative writing at the University of East Anglia. His first novel, An Evening of Long Goodbyes, was short-listed for the Whitbread Prize in 2003 and was nominated for the Kerry Irish Fiction Award. Skippy Dies, his second novel, was long-listed for the Booker prize and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.
Reading Group Guide
1. What were your initial theories about why Skippy died?
2. Why cant Howard be happy with Halley? Is his obsession with Aurelie any different from
Skippys obsession with Lori?
3. Who are the heroes and villains in this novel? Is the bad behavior due to bad parenting, high testosterone levels, materialism, lack of belief in a difficult God? Other factors?
4. How does Seabrook compare with your high school? Which characters most closely resemble you and your circle of friends?
5. What do the novels priests have to say about the nature of the suffering they see at Seabrook? Do they defy or fit the stereotype of prep-school priests?
6. When Carls parents fight loudly (David versus jealous mother Lucia), what do you think theyre teaching him about love? How do they manage to stay so clueless about their son?
7. With his emphasis on marketing, branding, and public relations, does the Automator (Greg Costigan) reflect a typical trend in education today?
8. Would the novel have been as interesting if it had been set at the all-girls school St. Brigids? Are teenage girls as destructive as teenage boys?
9. Howard tells the Automator that Skippy earned his nickname because he has buck teeth, which cause him to make a kangaroo-like noise when he speaks. What makes Skippy an easy target? Are those who pick on him (including Father Green, badgering Skippy about obscenity in front of the whole French class) sadistic?
10. Google “M-theory.” What do the articles seem to say about the search for order in the universe, even before the Big Bang? Why is it an ideal theory for Ruprechts obsession, and for this novel?
11. Part I closes with a blend of Professor Tamashis interview on the eleventh dimension and scenes from Skippys “seduction” by Lori. What does it take to give and get love in Skippy Dies? What do those scenes say about the reality that love creates? What does the novel say about the reality that drugs create?
12. Loris father, Gavin Wakeham, is an alumnus of Seabrook, and he is eager to share with Skippy his recollections of the faculty (which included a fondler, alumni who returned to their alma mater to teach when other opportunities didnt work out, and the perennially socially conscious Father Green). What impressions did the school make on Mr. Wakeham? What impressions will it leave on Skippys class?
13. Discuss Ruprechts quartet and the musical performance he links to communicating with the dead. Is it a step forward or backward for him, mentally?
14. Which came first: Carls drug use or his obsession with power and violent sex? When he became haunted by Dead Boy, did you think he was seeing a hallucination or a ghost? Reread his explosive closing scene. Is he a Demon, or the victim of one?
15. After Skippys funeral, his father tells Howard that Skippys great-grandfather served in Gallipoli. Does Skippys generation lack valor?
16. Howard and Father Green are appalled to see the Automator defend Coach Roche. Is Tom worthy of defense?
17. Ultimately, who is to blame for Skippys death?
18. Discuss part IV, “Afterland.” Is Gregs message a victory letter? Did he get everything he
Guide written by Amy Clements / The Wordshop, Inc.