Posts Tagged ‘Skippy Dies’
December 21, 2011 | by Rachel Nolan
Paul Murray, author of Skippy Dies and An Evening of Long Goodbyes, wrote “That’s My Bike!,” a short story published in the Winter issue of The Paris Review. The story opens with a group of friends gathered at a none-too-salubrious pub in Dublin’s Northside on Christmas Eve. Murray spoke to me from his office at the Oscar Wilde Center for writing at Trinity College in Dublin, where he is a writing fellow.
The last time I was in Dublin for Christmas was in 2007, right before the crash. The Christmas displays along Grafton Street and in all the shopping areas were absolutely ghastly. Everything had blinking lights and moving parts. Is this still the case?
There’s this shop called Brown Thomas, which is the oldest department store in Dublin and it’s very swanky and expensive. Historically, when it used to be called Switzer’s, they had these famous windows with Santa Claus and mice making ballet shoes and so forth, and it was all mechanized, and the kids would go into Dublin and look at the windows. That was something your parents would bring you to do. Then, when the boom came, they stopped having child-oriented windows and started having these really nasty Helmut Lang soft-cyber-porn-type windows with a bunch of emaciated blue mannequins wearing just a giant watch and staring bleakly out of the windows. Everything was about excess and consumption. The idea that children had any part of Christmas was shunted to one side because the store just wanted to get the adults in there to spend money.
And would the adults make pilgrimages to gaze at the watches?
They wouldn’t even stop at the windows, they would just pile into the store. I remember being in there and hearing a couple next to me saying, “I just don’t know what to get her.” And the woman said, “Pearls, you can’t really go wrong with pearls.” And I remember thinking, “Who are you people?” It was beyond parody. And these were people who worked in normal sorts of jobs. Read More »
October 21, 2010 | by Miranda Popkey
Paul Murray’s second novel, Skippy Dies—recently longlisted for the Booker Prize—is more than six hundred pages long and tackles subjects ranging from string theory to World War I. Set at an Irish boarding school, the darkly comic tale (Skippy actually does die in the first chapter) is populated by a sharply drawn cast of confused, self-destructive teens and self-involved, irresponsible adults. Recently, Murray spoke to me from his home in Dublin.
Did you draw any of the characters and themes from your own experiences? Were you bullied at school?
I went to quite an illustrious school in Ireland called Blackrock College, and Seabrook College, the school in the book, physically resembles the school that I went to. But other than that, it wasn’t hugely autobiographical. I wasn’t bullied or anything; I wasn’t brutalized in any way. There were much nerdier kids in my school, and they would draw more of the fire, but I could see it going on around me. It wasn’t an evil place. But there was such a limited view of the world. It was a big rugby school, and I was incredibly bad at rugby. They would make you play it until you were about fifteen, no matter how incredibly pointless that was. So if you weren’t any good at rugby, then you sort of didn’t really have any kind of standing in the school.
I think being a teenager is really, really hard. You’re caught in this double bind: You’re struggling to establish your own identity, and at the same time you have absolutely zero of the tools that you need. You’re completely dependent on your parents, you have no money, and your day is mapped out for you from beginning to end. My school was a boys’ school; there were no girls, so life really felt kind of pointless in that regard. You’ve got these huge sexual transformations happening, but if there are no girls, obviously all the energy is just going to be turned into brutalizing whoever is smaller than you.
There was also a real emphasis on grades. The school would push students to perform well on exams and get a lot of points and get into good universities and so forth. The education system in Ireland is a real sausage factory. You go into class and you learn as many facts as you can and you regurgitate them in your exams, and there’s not a huge amount of respect for learning or a huge amount of respect for education. And because a lot of the kids were quite wealthy, some of them looked down on teachers. And the combination of a might-makes-right brutality and also getting a glimpse of the economic hierarchy that held sway in the country—all those things were really disappointing lessons to learn as a kid. It felt like my life began as soon as I left school.
September 1, 2010 | by Radhika Jones
MORNING Tea1 and the NYT Editor's Choice on the iPad. Morning commute: F train, relatively uncrowded because it's the end of August. Reading survey reveals it's a periodical-dominated morning: the Times, the WSJ, the Metro, the Post, and two people facing off with The New Yorker. I pull out my advanced reader's copy of Skippy Dies, which I am in the middle of, and which is so absorbing2 that I need to be careful not to miss my stop.
Second cup of tea steeping in office kitchen. Delightful news via memo left under my door: from now on, the motion-sensor light in my office will only come on if I push it. I hate the fluorescent light, but until now have been powerless to disengage it. Now I will just never turn it on!
Wake up computer and look at Time.com to see what my colleagues have been up to overnight. Also look at the NYTimes Web site, and the Guardian, and Talking Points Memo. And a few book blogs, an old Paris Review habit I've reignited in these slightly news-slow summer months—which is how I come across the sad story of the death of VQR's managing editor.
On deck for this morning: signing off on finished magazine pages; ideas meeting; edits for next week. Also opening all the mail that has piled up in the last few weeks. I should open my mail every day. Then it would not pile up. I know that, but sometimes I rebel3, and this time it has gotten so bad that random colleagues have begun stopping by my office and offering to help me open it. I am the office Collyer Brother.
Morning meeting over. Half an hour until next meeting. Office gloriously unfluorescent. Work takes on low-lit, romantic flavor.
E-mail from my brother wondering which Scrabble app he should download so we can play together. I want to play with him, but he lives in Andover, Mass., so if we are to play, I will have to join Facebook4.
Open InCopy. I love InCopy. It lets me work in layout, and secretly I've always wanted to be a graphic designer. This reminds me that I never saw that documentary Helvetica, all about the font. Turn on iPad and add Helvetica to Netflix queue. It's available for instant viewing! Maybe I will watch it this weekend.
Meetings meetings meetings. Lunch!
AFTERNOON Back at my desk after Italian food and a lovely chat with an entertainment publicist who fills me in on a few fall movies. Caitlin Roper (of Paris Review fame) alerts me to a tweet from Bill Burton saying the President just bought a copy of Jonathan Franzen's Freedom. I'm going to go ahead and assume that's because we put Franzen on the cover of Time. President Obama, if you need any more book recommendations, feel free to call me directly. I think you'd really like David Mitchell.
Heroically refrain from reading Skippy Dies during multicolor wheel spin while waiting for InCopy file to open.
Culturally with-it colleague Gilbert Cruz drops by, ostensibly with a work question but actually to recommend I watch the Free Willy horror movie recut on YouTube. It's fantastic. Then we watch The Shining recut as romantic comedy. Then, because I am a Harry Potter fan, I must read "Harry Potter and the Prisoners of Gitmo" on time.com, about the books on offer for Guantanamo detainees.
Call neighborhood bookstore, BookCourt on Court Street, to see about the first Paul Murray book. They don't have it, alas. Meanwhile, twilight is coming on, and it's kind of dark in here. May need to buy an office lamp.
LATER Writing headlines is hard.
LATER STILL I'm done for the day. Skippy and I are reunited!
EVENING Friday nights were made for catching up on Top Chef. Life before DVR—I've blocked it from my memory. Read More »
- P.G. Tips, half teaspoon sugar, half teaspoon honey, splash of milk.
- It's Paul Murray's second novel, out August 31 in the U.S., and I am going to review it for Time.
- Against myself? The post office? All the publishers who put out books and mail them to me?
- I didn't join at the beginning, and then I missed the second through eighth waves of enthusiasm and proselytizing. I figured I would just continue blithely through life, Facebook-free, forgetting people's birthdays. But now… Scrabble. Will it be my downfall? This is one of those luxurious dilemmas we face in the developed world.