Skippy Dies by Paul Murray

Paul Murray (Paul Murray: Shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2023 | The Booker Prizes) is an Irish writer from Dublin. He has written four novels, the second of which is Skippy Dies (2010). The summary is as follows:

We find ourselves in the grand old Dublin institution that is Seabrook College for Boys. Ruprecht Van Doren is an overweight genius whose hobbies include very difficult mathematics and the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence. Daniel ‘Skippy’ Juster is his roommate. Nobody pays either of them much attention. But when Skippy falls for Lori, the Frisbee-playing Siren from the girls’ school next door, suddenly all kinds of people take an interest. This includes Carl, part-time drug dealer and official school psychopath.

While his teachers battle over modernisation, and Ruprecht attempts to open a portal into a parallel universe, Skippy is heading for a showdown in the name of love. This will be in the form of a fatal doughnut-eating race that only one person will survive. The unlikely tragedy will explode Seabrook’s century-old complacency and bring all kinds of secrets into the light. Teachers and pupils alike discover that the fragile lines dividing past from present, love from betrayal – and even life from death – have dissolved.

Paul Murray has been influenced by Thomas Pynchon (History Is Hard to Decode: On 50 Years of Thomas Pynchon’s “Gravity’s Rainbow” | Los Angeles Review of Books ( and he follows Pynchon in seeing that a world full of meaning and pattern has had a constant appeal in human life. Howard, the history teacher, says ‘.. I thought there’d be more of a narrative arc … a sense that it’s not just a bunch of days piling on top of one another’. A contrary suspicion lurks in his mind, however. In his reading about the First World War he is more convinced by the troops’ version of events – that the carnage has been sprawling, senseless and futile.

The bewilderment encountered by Ruprecht in quantum mechanics parallels this. String Theory seems to get more confusing the deeper he looks into it. The great dream, that there is a ‘Theory of Everything’, only seems to open up larger sets of questions. Ad infinitum. So the reassurance of Providence (Divine Providence (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)) for which humans yearn is not available, the author seems to suggest. No Grand Plan. No teleology.

Enjoyable moments are offered throughout. Murray conveys the painful outlook of teenage boys. It’s a poignant combination of credulity and cynicism. This is a novel with elements of dark comedy, social satire, close observation and ideas. One to consider.

ISBN: 9780141009957

First published 2010

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Paul Murray
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