Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Paul Murray visit

Here's another angle on Paul Murray's recent reading, this time from Catherine Stammschroer of VI form:-

Paul Murray, who, he stated, always wanted to be an author, was introduced by Ms Duggan before he began to read an extract from his most recent book, Skippy Dies. The book tells the tale of a group of students at Seabrook College which is based on the real secondary boarding school, Blackrock College, which Murray attended as a child. The reading piqued the interest of the audience who learned of hormonal schoolgirls from next door, a grumpy History teacher, Carl the school psychopath, Nipper the dog and so on. Murray also told the audience of the opening scene where Daniel ‘Skippy’ Juster enters a doughnut eating contest in which he chokes on a doughnut and almost dies. Note - almost. The rest of the novel is essentially a flashback of the events leading up to this day. Murray was vague as to the actual death, if any, of Skippy. Yes, someone did try and ask what actually happened to Skippy!

Once the reading was over, the audience was given the opportunity to ask questions. Murray was subject to questions involving both the book and his personal life as an author. We discovered that Skippy Dies actually took seven years to write and was, at its longest, over 1200 pages long. Murray had to cull about half of his work to create the novel it is today. We also learned of this routine as an author - that he forces himself to get to the desk every day as ‘80% of success is showing up’.

Murray studied English and Philosophy in college. He initially became interested in Philosophy, he said, when he came upon a Woody Allen film in which a philosopher killed himself. He believed Philosophy would help him answer questions like ‘what is love?’ and ‘why do we live?’ However, he was very wrong. Philosophy in Trinity focused more on Mathematics. Thus, he was quite disappointed. Nevertheless, he continued studying English. He started writing short stories. Years later, he told us, he went into a small bookshop where he met a man who convinced him to send off one of his novels to a publisher. He completed a course and officially became an author. The man he met later became the famous author of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.

The evening ended up with Murray talking about how his novels brought him to different places in order to do readings. Ireland, Boston, Germany, London, New York, Paris and Beijing were among those cities which he visited due to the publication of Skippy Dies. Going off on another interesting tangent, he mentioned how taxi drivers were the best at ‘suggesting’ stories while he sat innocently in the back of the cab. He referred to James Joyce’s quote and also agreed that ‘I’ve never met a boring person’. Some people he has met throughout his life have found themselves somehow integrated into Skippy Dies and make ‘cameo appearances’ in his novel (although not officially, he didn’t want lawyers involved). All we know is that Father Green, a character in Skippy Dies, is based on one of Murray’s old French teachers who was ‘terrifying, tall and constantly enraged, who hated all boys’.

Overall the evening was a mixture of funny and informative, to say the least. It was far more interesting than Claire Keegan’s reading and question-answering of Foster last year (am I allowed to say that?) and it actually did manage to encourage me to read Skippy Dies. Paul Murray is currently writing a third novel which has thus far taken five years to write. However the question remains, how did Skippy die? Paul Murray answered “Hopefully you’ll buy and read the novel to find out.”

Monday, October 20, 2014

Paul Murray visit

On Thursday last, Paul Murray, author of Skippy Dies and An Evening of Long Goodbyes, came to the Big Schoolroom to read to interested pupils and answer their questions.  Here is an account by Roman Sharykin of VI form:

On the 17th of October, the author of the novel Skippy Dies, Paul Murray, came to the school to talk to us about his book. If I am honest, I was a little sceptical about the whole event at the start, mainly because I haven’t read the book and was concerned about how much of the talk I would actually understand. However, when the author began reading his masterpiece, all my preconceptions were wiped out and for ten minutes, I sank into the world of Seabrook College.

The first thing that struck me was the way Paul Murray read his piece. He seemed to be a little shy and unsure of himself, yet through his tone and manner of expression I got an impression of a man reading his own diary. He had a very clear emotional attachment to the piece, expressing a set of emotions that could only be felt by a person who experienced everything he wrote about. What also impressed me was Paul Murray's style of writing. He described everything with very vivid imagery, seen from a child's perspective. His descriptions of boarding life and school life in general, contained some very subtle social criticisms, like the influence of the Catholic church on the culture of Ireland and the attitude to sex in particular. His characters were very extreme in a humorous way, yet extremely realistic, and even reminded me of some people I know. Paul Murray also managed to capture the essence of a child growing up, working to find and take his place in society. All the emotions of fear, confusion and wonder are masterfully captured in every line of the text. The author even goes so far as to compare the Big Bang theory to a school, a reference which is very strange, yet makes perfect sense.

After Paul finished reading from his book, he went on to answer some questions about the text and his career and life as a writer and followed up on most answers by telling personal anecdotes. He revealed to us his secret characters based on real people he used to know, like the evil priest in his book who was built on the character of Paul’s old French teacher. He also shared his routine and his approach to collecting ideas with us. I found it very interesting how he used political and historical issues in order to generate ideas for his books. For example Paul Murray looks at the Irish people who died in world war one and their contribution which has largely been forgotten, and uses that fact to generate an idea for a school trying to cover up Skippy’s death. It is an interesting criticism of the work of a system, in a sense that a good system will always try to smoothe over and eliminate things that stand in its way or do not directly fit into it.

Overall Paul Murray came across as a very knowledgeable person. His amazing critical thinking and deep analytical skills made him an incredible person to listen to. I already ordered both his books on Amazon and am eagerly awaiting their arrival in order to dive into the story of Skippy and Seabrook. Honestly, I think this was one of the best English events this year and I hope that we get to see many more amazing authors of the same caliber. A big thank you to Miss Duggan for organising such and amazing evening, and an even bigger thank you to Paul Murray who took some time to come and speak to us. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Bang! Splash! The purpose of onomatopoeia

This is podcast 6 in the rerun of the Patterns of Poetry series of short discussions of poetic techniques, and looks at onomatopoeia, examining Seamus Heaney's poem 'A Constable Calls', as well as 'Sunlight'.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Paul Murray

We're delighted to welcome Paul Murray, author of Skippy Dies and An Evening of Long Goodbyes, to read to pupils tomorrow night in the Big Schoolroom at 7.30pm. A report will appear here afterwards.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

SCC Book Club

The choice for this term's Book Club discussion should be popular: Jay Asher's best-selling Thirteen Reasons Why. It's also an appropriate choice in this, our Bullying Awareness Week, as Asher's own site explains.

Those interested should get a copy in the Library, in a bookshop, or as an e-book, and read it in preparation for the discussion on Tuesday 2nd December in the Library.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Bullying Awareness Week

This is Bullying Awareness Week in the College. For more details, see the College site here.

A video shown this morning at Assembly to introduce the topic was about words, and the language we use to and about each other. Since English is all about language, and the best choice of words, it seems right to post the video on this site, too.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Symbolism in poetry

The fifth in the Patterns of Poetry series deals with the use of symbols, and uses 'The Stare's Nest by my Window', the sixth in the sequence 'Meditations in Time of Civil War' by W.B.Yeats. A longer podcast on his poem 'The Wild Swans at Coole' can be heard here. 

Listen to today's talk via the player below.


Friday, October 03, 2014

Extended Essay reading

For any Transition Year pupils who are looking for the final books in their 'package' for the comparative Extended Essay, or the more ambitious of you who want to do more reading than the required amount, here is a helpful list of suggestions put together by the Librarian, Mr McConville.

Navigate through the document by clicking once on it, clicking again for a closer view, and using the arrows.

Thursday, October 02, 2014


In this re-run of short talks, the fourth in the Patterns of Poetry series is on personification, examining Patrick Kavanagh's 1934 poem 'Shancoduff'.

Get our Audioboos as podcasts on iTunes here. Our Audioboo page is here. Listen to today's talk via the player below.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

SCC Book Club

Mr Jameson is starting off the College Book Club again. All interested should go to the Library at 1.30pm on Tuesday 7th October. The plan is to choose a book at that meeting and get it read for a second meeting in December, after the exams. The format will be: meet in the library at lunchtime and talk about the chosen book over coffee and treats.