10/03/14 was a very exciting day for me. Paul Murray came in to talk to my Community and Contemporary Irish Fiction class.
I can hear some of you saying, ‘And who’d that be?’ Well, I’m about to educate you. And then you can do something great for yourself.
Paul Murray wrote, among other things, a fantastic novel called Skippy Dies which was long-listed for the Booker Prize in 2010 and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. It’s incredibly funny, incredibly sad, and infinitely readable even at its (admittedly daunting) 661 pages. Skippy Dies is about a Catholic boys boarding school in Dublin and the events which lead up to and follow the death of Daniel ‘Skippy’ Juster. It’s available on kindle. Do yourself a favour: buy it and read it. You can thank me later.
I have two copies of the book. One, I bought on kindle when I saw it on the syllabus at the beginning of term. The students in the class who had already read it, raved about it, and those (mostly Irish) who knew of it but hadn’t read it were eager for the chance to do so. The second copy, a paperback from a bookshop in Rathmines (support local businesses!) I bought when my professor announced that Mr. Murray, a TCD English alum himself, had agreed to come in and talk to the class about the book, and that he would sign our copies. Yes, I think that’s worth another €11.
10/03/14 was the day we covered Skippy Dies in class. I felt like death that morning, with the beginnings of a migraine that were begging me to stay in bed. That wasn’t going to happen, though. I missed seeing Mikhail Shishkin when he came to Rochester last year because I had a migraine then as well (I swear, it’s like my body doesn’t want me to meet people I admire), and I’ve regretted it ever since. So I took a couple paracetamol, drank a ton of water, and spent the bus ride imitating someone dying of a hangover. Once I got to class and was able to sit down in a relatively quiet, dim environment, it evened out.
For the first hour of our once-weekly, two hour seminar, we just talked about our reactions to the book (all wildly positive) and the salient thematic, plot, and structural devices. Then our professor went off and came back with Mr. Murray, who sat at the front of the class and answered our questions. It was great. I’m shyer than a shy shy thing, so I didn’t ask anything, but my classmates pretty much covered everything I’d wanted to know anyway. He was very funny, engaging, and it really felt more like a conversation than a Q&A, contrived interview. I couldn’t have asked for more. At the end of class, everyone lined up to get our books signed, and I managed not to give in to any literary fangirl panic and remembered my name and how to spell it (although it was very briefly touch and go.)
It was great. That experience was exactly the kind I’d hoped to have in coming to Trinity. The great thing about Dublin is that it has a very rich literary heritage, combined with being a capital city where a lot of contemporary authors live. Combine with that Trinity’s long list of distinguished author alumni and its prestige, English classes at Trinity are not totally unused to visits such as Paul Murray’s. Patrick McCabe, another author I love (and the opportunity to study whose book, The Butcher Boy, was a major draw to the academic programme for me) has also come in to speak to the students at Trinity in the past. What more could an English major ask for, really?
I’ve never regretted coming to study at Trinity, but that experience just compounded my appreciation for the opportunities that are available to me here. Leaving aside the not inconsiderable thrill of going to the same university as Oscar Wilde and Bram Stoker did, once upon a time, and the fantastic quality of instruction that I’ve encountered in the English department, with professors who love their material and want you to love it just as much, going to Trinity has given me chances I’d never get anywhere else.
I know I probably sound like a broken record, but I love Trinity, and it’s going to be hard to leave. At least I’ll have my autographed copy of Skippy Dies to bring with me.
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Hannah Vose is a University of Rochester junior, majoring in English with an interest in literary translation studies. When not burying her nose in whichever book has most recently been plucked from atop the dangerously tall pile on her desk, she can be found obsessively learning new languages, squinting through her (very stylish, thank you!) bifocals at someone else's writing in her job as a Writing Fellow, drinking stupid amounts of tea, squinting through her bifocals at her own writing in her job as a scathing self-critic, or dreaming of living somewhere which gets even less sun than Rochester. Born in England but having lived most of her life in Endicott, New York, she has traveled back to the Land of Her People twice and visited Dublin once on the way over. She considered applying to Trinity College as an international student, but was deterred by tuition costs (yikes!) so she's absolutely 100% thrilled to be living in Dublin and taking classes at Trinity for an entire year (and only about 34% of that is because she might get to take a class on Patrick McCabe -- will it happen? Stay tuned!)</span></p>