“We’re too old
We’re not old at all.”
In the opening scene of Skippy Dies, in which the climactic and eponymous action of Paul Murray’s novel occurs on the floor of Ed’s Doughnut House, Daniel “Skippy” Juster attempts to scribble, with jelly as his ink, his final message to the world. “Tell Lori” is all he manages, but the intention seems clear. “Tell Lori you love her? Is that it?” his friend Ruprecht asks desperately, and Skippy exhales, smiles, and passes away.
Set in Seabrook, a fictional all-boys’ Irish secondary school, Murray’s second novel is best described as an attempt to fill in the blanks—those left by Skippy’s final message (was his final smile an affirmation of Ruprecht’s clichéd hypothesis or simply an acceptance of his death?), by his death, by lives that don’t correlate to the expected narrative arcs we seek, and by this quizzical and evolving universe around us. How exactly do we explain ourselves? Indeed, Murray quickly makes an analogy between the Big Bang and puberty: “[E]verything that is, everything that has ever been…all crammed into one dimensionless point where no rules or laws apply, waiting to fly out and become the future,” in the words of Ruprecht.