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Skels: A Novel [Paperback]

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Item description for Skels: A Novel by Maggie Dubris...

Lyrical, violent, and surprisingly passionate, Skels is an inventive yet realistic portrait of the urban underworld from a paramedic's point of view. The story is based on an unusual idea: What would happen if the ambulance world was permeated with the works of past authors, and the homeless patients (the "skels") carried the consciousness of the writers? What would a paramedic do if she met a great poet, dirty and covered with lice, and was granted the chance to save him --- not from dying but from his own life? A funny, gritty urban thriller, Skels pits corrupt cops, bumbling firemen, drunken softball tournaments, and careening transvestites against this surreal literary environment, realistically portraying a New York City of 1979 rich with an ancient truth that is all but invisible from the outside. The characters within it must face brutality and illness, vengeance and despair, and find help in tenderness and the threads that connect them to the past.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   238
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.5" Width: 6.25" Height: 9"
Weight:   0.8 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   May 14, 2004
Publisher   Soft Skull Press
ISBN  1932360255  
ISBN13  9781932360257  

Availability  0 units.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General > Contemporary
2Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General > Literary
3Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General
4Books > Subjects > Mystery & Thrillers > Mystery > Women Sleuths

Reviews - What do customers think about Skels: A Novel?

Grit and magic!  Aug 4, 2006
Dubris' tale of Orlie Breton, a New York paramedic, is an amazing work, full of street grittiness pulled off in such poetic language that it tempers it enough to make even the squarest reader see the beauty in the horror of urban decay and oppression. The author writes with the transcendant wonder of someone who is in love with the world, the city and humanity. This is reflected in the character, Orlie, as she moves through a world of suffering and madness.
Also, in this story are some of the most lively and vivid characters that I have seen committed to paper in a long time. For instance, Weenie, b*tchy drag queen who stuff's his bra full of jell-o. Or Neal, a guy she dates who takes acid and flips out and disappears, only to show up later in the book camping out in a yellow sumarine he constructed on top of a building in Hell's Kitchen. Even the most minor of characters, like Cat, a sketchy drug dealer who lives in a tent city and only makes a couple appearances, is so menacing that he'll stay with you long after you read it.
Things get progressively more bizarre as the story continues. Orlie's zeal for life gets her into many weird and twisted situations, both on and off the job. Things however, come to a crux after she saves the life of a cop who is out to kill a homeless street poet that she has befriended. Whom she take upon herself to hide and then help flee from the city.
If you're looking for a self-indulgent book on work, read Bukowski's "Post Office". If you want something that is raw, yet empowering, read this. Dubris is truly a tremendous human being who has put herself through the darkest of nights as paramedic and found shimmering beauty in it all. I am humbled by her ability to take us there too.

Beautiful and surreal  Aug 4, 2005
Although I sometimes feel like I have fallen down the rabbit hole at my job in a big city library, I have nothing on writer Maggie Dubris, an EMS/ambulance driver in 1970's New York's Hell's Kitchen, Times Square and Harlem. Although Skels is fiction and has an eerie low grade current of magic realism running throughout it, I believe in the veracity of every single word of it. As I have often commented on my own work tales: you just can't make this up.

The title comes from a word that she hears on the first day of her job in Harlem, and it is a term used to by the police and city workers to describe the panhandlers and homeless who live in the subway or abandoned buildings. She is unfamiliar with the word so when she goes home that evening she looks up the word in a dictionary.

There wasn't any actual entry for "skel." I studied the closest thing I could find.

SKELDER v. {a cant term of obscure origin}
To beg; to live by begging, esp. by passing oneself off as a wounded or disbanded soldier

Skelder. Skel. It seemed like the word had meant the same thing in medieval times. Until it fell from use and vanished like a coin in the river, lost in the muck for three hundred years, to suddenly pop up in the precincts and ambulance garages of Harlem.

Although the subject matter is lurid, Dubris' writing is haunting, beautiful and pensive. This excerpt is after she retrieves a body of a drowned blind guitar player, a homeless regular who is originally from Georgia.

Now I could see garbage floating in the sun's light; cans and soggy paper, and the black of the river was just sludge, suspended in the cold, poison water. Bodies floated under the current; gangsters who had crossed the wrong men, whores too old or too sassy, and drunks like Blind Samuels, who wandered too far from home and fell in one hot summer night. His guitar was in there somewhere, I knew it. Smashed to bits by the water. All the years of sweat and flaking skin washed away...
I thought of Blind Samuels, rolling in the deep, and all of the other men down there, the toadies and the rats and the welshers, bricks tied to their feet, the current washing the tears from their sightless eyes.
stunning surreal....... a must read  Jun 16, 2004
writing at its best. a great read for anyone, not just the EMS community.
Maggie Dubris is truely gifted in her writing. a true hard look at NYC and Paramedics in the early 80's from the eyes of a poetic soul.

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