When a friend asked me why I was planning on finishing Skippy Dies rather than giving up on it, I replied that I wanted to find out why I’d been reading it. This was a six hundred and sixty-one page book, after all–there had to be a reason.
There hadn’t been a good one for me to start it–a friend dropped it off at my house along with some hibiscus tea, so when I finished Their Eyes Were Watching God (over a month ago…) I picked it up. It was sitting right there.
I give nothing away here when I tell you that Skippy, a fourteen year old Irish Catholic school boy, dies. We see the fateful scene where he expires right away, then back up a couple of months for the lead-up. The action is set at Seabrook, a Catholic boys’ school in Ireland, and is seen through the third person points of view of, variously: Skippy, his overweight delusional roommate Ruprecht, a hoodlum named Carl, universal love interest Lori, sad-sack history teacher Howard the Coward and more, as well as the second person “you.” Chapters often transfer from one p.o.v. to another in a post-modern, stream of consciousness, too-clever-for-my-taste way. There are billions of characters–so many schoolboys, so many friends of Lori, so many teachers, so many priests.
So many illnesses! So many delusions! So many people taking so many pills! So many literary allusions! Do we need more than one pedophile? More than one sex scandal? More than one set of self-involved parents? More than one theory about how to communicate with the dead? Sure, I can recall or even dream up situations in which this kind of accrual would amount to more than the sum of its parts. But in this case, there was such an excess of everything that every new plot point detracted from the one before. The book’s multiplicity of themes, rants, raves, convoluted plans, quirky quirks, etc. had a leveling effect on each other–none spiked up any higher than the others, rendering what should have been the climax of the book no more dramatic than any other point along the way.
There was also a curious lack of suspense in the narrative–strangely enough, given the sheer amount of goings on, everything appeared to be what it appeared to be. I read to the end hoping for a surprise, a reveal, a twist that would elevate all of those pages into something bigger than themselves, but at the end, the book was nothing more than what it was. I read a story, learned what happened, was moderately entertained and felt nothing. I was reading it because someone left it at my house.