Posts tagged: skippy dies
Literary Oufits, v. 2: Skippy Dies by Paul Murray
v. 1: Smut by Alan Bennett
What do you mean you haven’t read Skippy Dies yet? And here I am wearing sweaters to honor it.
Lately, I have encountered far too many people who have not read this novel, which, I would happily argue, is the best book published in the last decade—not to mention being beautifully designed by Leanne Shapton.
Do something nice for yourself and read it! Your bookshelves will thank you, too.
* * *
Skippy Dies by Paul Murray
Faber & Faber, August 2010
ISBN: 9780865479432. 661 pgs.
I second the Skippy-Dies-is-the-best-read-it-now sentiment and wanted to share Tiffany’s amazing sweater with all of you. Also scheming on how to do some kind of literary (anti-)fashion show at HWBC.
“Now, they’d joined up expecting to be sent to the Western Front, and it wasn’t until their ship sailed that they discovered they were en route to Turkey instead. Churchill had this plan to force a passage through the Dardanelles, create a new supply route to Russia and draw the Germans away from the Front. The previous attempt to land, at Gallipoli, had been a total catastrophe. They’d tried a Trojan Horse trick— packed up a division in an old collier that was to run right up onto the beach and catch the Turks by surprise. But the Turks were waiting, with machine guns. Supposedly the whole bay turned red with blood. This time round, the commanding officers were so paranoid that they kept their plan completely to themselves— to the point that nobody else knew what they were supposed to be doing. “D” Company and the rest of the Dublins were landed in the wrong place, with no maps and no orders. Temperatures were in the hundreds, the Turks had poisoned the wells, it was raining shrapnel; They waited there on the beach while their general tried to work out what to do…”
*yeah, that’s an oxford comma - WHAT OF IT?
i’ve always had these weird fascinations (separate, though likely not unrelated) with symmetry and string theory, and, as of late (and i say “late” loosely, meaning the last couple years or so), have entertained some misgivings on love, etc., so when i read this passage, taken from paul murray’s fantastic novel skippy dies, my mind was effectively blown into a billion little ecstatic fucking pieces. it’s a beautiful reconciliation of nature at its most elegant and humanity at its messiest. and, it serves to solidify the belief (if you are, as i am, “of it”) that art is at the core of what makes the world go ‘round (or, life = energy = open-ended strings = unrequited love = loneliness = the catalyst of 99.9999% of what we call art). and that perfection doesn’t really exist, or, if it does, doesn’t play a role in real life, the “sticky stuff of the universe.” that we are all, in the words of HIMYM, “on the hook,” whilst dangling someone else on our own. i also love this passage for its stylistic debts to DFW, pynchon, and, at least syntactically, fitzgerald.
so, without further ado, ENJOY:
“he is thinking about asymmetry. this is a world, he is thinking, where you can lie in bed, listening to a song as you dream about someone you love, and your feelings and the music will resonate so powerfully and completely that it seems impossible that the beloved, whoever and wherever he or she might be, should not know, should not pick up this signal as it pulsates from your heart, as if you and the music and the love and the whole universe have merged into one force that can be channelled out into the darkness to bring them this message. but in actuality, not only will he or she not know, there is nothing to stop that other person from lying on his or her bed at the exact same moment listening to the exact same song and thinking about someone else entirely — from aiming those identical feelings in some completely opposite direction, at some totally other person, who may in turn be lying in the dark thinking of another person still, a fourth, who is thinking of a fifth, and so on, and so on; so that rather than a universe of neatly reciprocating pairs, love and love-returned fluttering through space nicely and symmetrically like so many pairs of butterfly wings, instead we get chains of yearning, which sprawl and meander and culminate in an infinite number of dead ends.
just as the shape of natural objects like rainbows, snowflakes, crystals and blossoming flowers derives from the symmetrical way that quarks arrange themselves in the atom — a remnant of the universe’s lost state of perfect symmetry — so Ruprecht is convinced that the unhappy state of affairs regarding love can be traced right back to the subatomic. if you read up on strings, you will learn that there are two different types, closed and open-ended. the closed strings are O-shaped loops that float about like angels, insouciant of spacetime’s demands and playing no part in our reality. it is the open-ended strings, the forlorn, incomplete U-shaped strings, whose desperate ends cling to the sticky stuff of the universe; it is they that become reality’s building blocks, its particles, its exchangers of energy, the teeming producers of all that complication. our universe, one could almost say, is actually built out of loneliness; and that foundational loneliness persists upwards to haunt every one of its residents. but might the situation be different in other universes? in a universe where, for instance, all of the strings were closed, what would love look like there? and energy? and spacetime? the siren call of the question mark: his thoughts drift laterally, inevitably, away from Skippy and his predicament to grander matters — universes coiled voluptuously in secret dimensions, sheets of pure sparking otherness, crimped topographies cradling forms unsullied even by being dreamed of…”
I just finished Murray’s Skippy Dies — I diligently waited for the paperback then got it the day the paperback got out — and it’s one of the best books I’ve read in awhile. So good, recommended for everyone.