Connelly, Neil (O'Boyle) (Neil O. Connelly, Jr.)
CONNELLY, Neil (O'Boyle)
(Neil O. Connelly, Jr.)
ADDRESSES: Office—Department of Languages, McNeese State University, 4205 Ryan St., St. Charles, LA 70609. Agent— E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: McNeese State University, Lake Charles, LA, associate professor.
(As Neil O. Connelly, Jr.; Reteller) Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol (juvenile; "Christmas Pop-up Treasury" series), Ottenheimer Publishers (Baltimore, MD), 1993.
St. Michael's Scales (young-adult novel), Arthur A. Levine Books (New York, NY), 2002.
Buddy Cooper Finds a Way (adult novel), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2004.
Contributor of short fiction to periodicals, including Southeast Review, Review, and Yalobusha Review.
SIDELIGHTS: The title of Neil Connelly's young-adult novel St. Michael's Scales refers to the scales held by the Catholic St. Michael, with which he weighs the worth of the souls waiting to gain entrance to heaven. Michael was also the name of fifteen-year-old Keegan Flannery's twin brother, who died during their premature birth. Keegan has carried the guilt of that death all of his life, while around him his parents' marriage dissolved, his older brother ran away, and his mother, after attempting suicide, was committed to a mental institution. Keegan feels that the scales, for him, will be empty, and so he too plans to commit suicide on his sixteenth birthday, in atonement for what he perceives to be his sins. However, he also worries that this act will exempt him from gaining a place in heaven due to St. Michael's intercession.
In the novel, Connelly portrays the guilt-obsessed culture of a 1970s Catholic school, in this case Our Lady of Perpetual Help, a crumbling building Keegan plans to burn down when he takes his own life. When the wrestling coach convinces him to fill an empty place on the wrestling team, however the scrawny Keegan agrees, feeling that the pain will be a sort of penance. After a harsh initiation, he comes to feel that he finally belongs, and begins to wrestle his inner demons as much as his opponents.
A Publishers Weekly critic felt that wrestling "provides a good parallel—both the weighing in ritual and the inherent struggle." Janet Hilbun wrote in School Library Journal that Connelly's "is a dark story, but one that is ultimately hopeful," while a Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote that the author "succeeds brilliantly at putting readers into the disturbed and tortured mind of its lonely protagonist." Kliatt reviewer Paula Rohrlick felt that "those with a Catholic background will probably best be able to relate to the religious guilt and references, but this is a story that can be appreciated by many readers."
The hero of Connelly's adult novel Buddy Cooper Finds a Way is the Unknown Kentucky Terror, a wrestler whose role in the ring is to lose all of his fights. Buddy is a loser in other aspects of life, as well: His wife, Alix, left him for Trevor, although she sometimes stops by for sex. Finally, Buddy gets his big chance when the head of the wrestling federation decides that he should win a match. Before it can happen, however, a fan goes on a shooting spree, hitting Buddy and two other wrestlers and killing the referee. Buddy returns to "loser" mode when he uses this tragedy to fake amnesia in order to win back Alix and his daughter. Other characters include wrestler Hardy Appleseed, who receives messages from Jesus through his hearing aid, and a group of homeless men who live in the condemned church next door. An asteroid the size of Texas that is hurtling toward Earth also figures into the plot.
Booklist critic John Green commented that the "fastpaced tragicomic plot and the eccentric cast" in Buddy Cooper Finds a Way "give energy to this thoughtful first novel." A Publishers Weekly contributor called the novel "a comic romp with a darker side," adding that it is "crafty, magical, [and] utterly enjoyable."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, March 15, 2002, John Green, review of St. Michael's Scales, p. 1251.
Entertainment Weekly, July 9, 2004, Adam B. Vary, review of Buddy Cooper Finds a Way, p. 94.
Horn Book, May-June, 2002, Lauren Adams, review of St. Michael's Scales, p. 325.
Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 2002, review of St. Michael's Scales, p. 252; May 1, 2004, review of Buddy Cooper Finds a Way, p. 409.
Kliatt, March, 2002, Paula Rohrlick, review of St. Michael's Scales, p. 10.
Publishers Weekly, March 25, 2002, review of St. Michael's Scales, p. 66; June 7, 2004, review of Buddy Cooper Finds a Way, p. 30.
San Francisco Chronicle, July 25, 2004, Jonathan Kiefer, review of Buddy Cooper Finds a Way, p. M3.
School Library Journal, June, 2002, Janet Hilbun, review of St. Michael's Scales, p. 134.
Times Picayune (New Orleads, LA), August 15, 2004, David Winkler-Schmit, review of Buddy Cooper Finds a Way, p. 6.