“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 adult's 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, Grade: A
“Dazzling . . . If killing your protagonist with more than 600 pages to go sounds audacious, it's nothing compared with the literary feats Murray pulls off in this hilarious, moving and wise book . . . It's the Moby Dick of Irish prep schools . . . Murray is an expansive writer, bouncing around in time, tense and point of view. He's unafraid to tempt sentimentality, to write directly at his deep themes, to employ shameless cliffhangers. And he's talented enough to get away with most of it . . . The mixture of tones is the book's true triumph, oscillating the banal with the sublime, the silly with the terrifying, the sweet with the tragic. In short, it's like childhood. In shorter, like life . . . Murray makes the right choices, refusing to spare kid and kidult alike the gorgeous harshness of the world, filled as it is with 'a sadness everyone can recognize, a sadness that is binding and homelike.” Jess Walter, Washington Post Book World
“He really does die. It's in the opening scene. But as Paul Murray's novel backtracks to explain what brought about his death, Skippy is so desperately, painfully alive that you hope the mere act of reading about him will save him . . . Murray balances . . . forces in finely tuned chords of pathos and comedy, a virtuosic display you'd expect from a writer with the confidence to kill of his title character in the title.” Radhika Jones, Time magazine
“[Murray] gets away with almost everything, owing to the strength of his remarkable dialogue, which captures the free-associative, sex-obsessed energy of teen-age conversation in all its coarse, riffing brilliance.” The New Yorker (Briefly Noted)
“This epic page-turner sweeps you along with the heedless gusto of youth.” People
“Deeply funny, deeply weird and unlike anything you've ever encountered before.” NPR.org
“The novel is a triumph . . . Brimful of wit, narrative energy and a real poetry and vision.” Adam Lively, The Sunday Times
“A real joy.” Marie Claire
“One of the most enjoyable, funny and moving reads of this young new year.” Patrick Ness, The Guardian
“An utterly engrossing read.” Elle
“Noisy, hilarious, tragic, and endlessly inventive . . . Murray's writing is just plain brilliant.” Kate Saunders, The Times
“A blast of a book.” Kevin Power, The Irish Times
“Darkly funny and wholly enjoyable . . . Murray will never once lose your attention, writing with wit and charm and making this tragicomedy both hilarious and effortlessly moving.” Very Short List
“A total knockout.” The Christian Science Monitor
“A refreshing break from the simple, bloglike prose of more popular novels . . . A most entertaining book from an excellent writer.” Dallas Morning News
“A great, early fall read . . . Bursting with plot and characters.” San Antonio Express-News
“When I tell you there's a scene towards the end of Paul Murray's Skippy Dies, where I was struggling to maintain my composure while reading on the New York subway, I hope you'll understand just how powerful this novel is. And the fantastic thing is: Just a few hundred pages earlier, I was fighting off a major case of the giggles on an airplane because there's another scene in this book that is hysterically funny, that takes its joke and just keeps turning the dial a little bit further until . . . well, until I was about to explode anyway.” Ron Hogan, Beatrice.com
“A triumph.” Bookforum online
“This novel is going straight to the top of my best books of 2010 list.” Baby Got Books
If killing your protagonist with more than 600 pages to go sounds audacious, it's nothing compared with the literary feats Murray pulls off in this hilarious, moving and wise book…Skippy Dies is an epic crafted around, of all things, a pack of 14-year-old boys. It's the Moby-Dick of Irish prep schools…The mixture of tones is the book's true triumph, oscillating the banal with the sublime, the silly with the terrifying, the sweet with the tragic. In short, it's like childhood. In shorter, like life.
The Washington Post
…extravagantly entertaining…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 adult's. And novels about themif they're as smart and funny and touching as Skippy Diescan be just as long as they like.
The New York Times
At Dublin's Seabrook College, Skippy survives the daily indignities common to a boarder's life in an elite boys school. Still, something's wrong. Why does he want to quit the swim team? Why are his grades slipping? And who's the dark-haired St. Brigid's girl Skippy is always trying to spy on with his roommate's telescope? Seabrook is the world in miniature, and its gates threaten to burst from the hugger-mugger of cruelty, scandal, and materialism teeming within. It takes Skippy's tragic death and a sequence of events both hilarious and horrifying to recover the consolations provided by sympathy and friendship. Whether these will be enough to redeem Seabrook remains anyone's guess, though Murray suggests that a fleeting sense of grace may be all we can hope for and more than we deserve. VERDICT Murray's second novel (after An Evening of Long Goodbyes) is almost flawless, a gift for fans of character and plot. In addition to his masterly use of James Joyce and Robert Graves throughout, Murray has created a social realism that holds its own with that of Dickens. Skippy Dies deserves to be widely read and loved. [Also available as a three-volume paperback boxed set, ISBN 978-0-86547-948-7, $30; see Prepub Alert, LJ 4/15/10.]—J. Greg Matthews, Washington State Univ. Lib., Pullman
If Harry Potter lived in an alternate Ireland, had no real magical powers but talked a good game, and fell all over himself every time he saw a girl, he might well belong in this splendid, sardonic magnum opus.
It seems safe to guess that Dublin resident Murray (An Evening of Long Goodbyes, 2004) knows the world of boarding schools, of drab dorms, fetid hallways and teenaged lads with their layers on layers of desperation. It seems even safer to guess, though, that unlike Seabrook College for boys, his Ruprecht Van Doren has no exact counterpart in real life. While the others lust after the girls in the prep school next door, Ruprecht—who "arrived at Seabrook in January, like a belated and non-returnable Christmas gift, after both his parents were lost on a kayaking expedition up the Amazon"—is exercising his weird brilliance by opening portals into parallel universes and confounding post-Newtonian physics. All the same, he's a fairly normal kid compared to some of the others, devout in his studies, hand up in class, quick to volunteer for extracurricular activities. Out in the hall, after all, there are thugs and drugs, kids steeped in Vietnam films and antinomianism, other kids lost in their own dismal worlds. The grown-ups aren't too much different; one teacher who is only ten years out of Seabrook himself has visions of the place in flames, while another seeks to find his way across the generation gap to find out just what junior is thinking. Throughout lurk the ghosts of the dead of World War I and the tutelary spirit of Robert Graves, odd sightings of whose memoir Goodbye to All That dot Murray's narrative. Oh, and then there's a fatal doughnut-eating contest as well, whence the title. Murray wanders confidently through the torments of the adolescent imagination, and he delivers a rollicking tale worthy of a Stephen Dedalus—but a lot more comprehensible.
Long and impossibly involved, but also beautifully written, with much truth and not a wasted word. A superb imagining of a strange world—that of pimply-faced kids, that is. Alternate universes, too.