Skels

Skels

by Maggie Dubris
     
 

When Orlie Breton shows up in June of 1979 to work as a paramedic in New York City’s 911 system, she finds herself plunged into a violent and magical world, populated by medics who are not terribly different from the homeless people—the "skels"—who comprise most of their patient population.

Orlie draws parallels between her experiences to the

Overview


When Orlie Breton shows up in June of 1979 to work as a paramedic in New York City’s 911 system, she finds herself plunged into a violent and magical world, populated by medics who are not terribly different from the homeless people—the "skels"—who comprise most of their patient population.

Orlie draws parallels between her experiences to the stories and feelings represented in the works of her favorite writers, including Jack London, Walt Whitman, Rimbaud, and Mark Twain. Skels was written with the question in mind of what would happen if the ambulance world really was permeated with the works of past writers, and the skels were carrying the consciousnesses of the writers themselves. What would the protagonist have done if she had met the greatest poet of all, dirty and covered with lice, and been granted the chance to save him? Not from dying, but from his own life. With Skels Dubris shares what she saw during her own time as an EMT— not literally, but more importantaly, how she felt in her soul, magical and violent and funny, filled with passion, and like it contained some ancient element that was invisible from the outside.

Editorial Reviews

Choire Sicha
[Dubris's] New York has everything and nothing to do with the real world, which is a reminder of something very simple: books don't need to get all pompous about our social disasters in order to make the grandest possible statements about them. Skels floats completely free of those painful, tiresome conversations about who we're supposed to be and who we have to be. On a hot Manhattan night, with hydrants pumping in the streets and the sirens Dopplering off, Orlie's in the same ambulance with the rest of us, unconcerned with being a subject, an object, a woman, a character.
The New York Times
Kirkus Reviews
Paramedic with a poetic soul cruises Manhattan's mean streets, circa 1978, and gets an education. When small-town girl Orlie Breton moves from her native Ohio to the East Village, it's culture shock enough; landing a job as a paramedic in Harlem puts her on sensory overload. Orlie's brittle first-person narrative puts the reader right over her shoulder in the ambulance, with gruff but easygoing partner Rodale, a.k.a. Rodie. He warns her that none of his partners last, but the duo gets along okay (and shares an affinity for Kerouac), the only tension coming from Rodie's ex-partner, Miss Montalvo, who resembles a staid schoolmarm but relates to Rodie as a lover. Book's title dates back to the 16th century (Orlie provides sources) and refers to street people. In Orlie's new world, the foremost of these are a ubiquitous poet known as the albino, whose provocative verses appear on walls all over the city with increasing frequency, and an expansive drunk called Blind Samuels. On the home front, Orlie's roommate Kim prowls the nightclub scene with her boyfriend Weenie, trying to advance her rock-music career. Orlie does well enough in Harlem to be promoted to Midtown and morgue duty. Dealing with corpses is only marginally better than dealing with the injured (a call to the subway tracks leads to a man cut in half but alive). At least her new partner, Jones, is more amiable than Rodie, who happens to be his cousin. Orlie earns a nickname-Little Bit-and through a strange series of events is reunited with high-school acquaintance Charlene, then a loser, now "adult" star Melissa Mounds. Orlie's one brush with fame, via a heroic act, endangers the albino and adds suspense to the finale. Dubris (WeepNot, My Wanton, 2002, etc.), who spent 20 years as a 911 medic, serves up a heap of those proverbial eight million stories with smoky nostalgia for pre-sanitized Manhattan.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781932360257
Publisher:
Soft Skull Press, Inc.
Publication date:
05/10/2004
Pages:
260
Product dimensions:
6.18(w) x 8.98(h) x 0.75(d)

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