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The curious incident of the dog in the night-time

557 words on

Mark Haddon’s The curious incident of the dog in the night-time has very little not to like about it: It’s got a red cover, short chapters – which I prefer –, numbered by prime numbers even, little drawings in the text every now and again and a sad little story.

Book Cover The story isn’t all that sad, in fact. It’s about a boy, Christopher (sharing his name with one of the protagonists of Dave Eggers Heartbreaking work of staggering genius), who is slightly autistic (or has Asperger’s syndrome, if the web-sites are to be believed), solves a murder mystery, digs up some buried secrets about his family and learns to do some steps of his own.

As Christopher himself is the narrator, the whole ‘special needs’ thing is hardly mentioned explicitly. He’s just reporting what happens as he sees it. And from his point of view strangers talking to him are bad and confusing, as is yellow and brown food or food that’s poorly arranged. He details how he has to focus to adjust to new situations and deal with everyday interaction. He also tells how he can ‘rewind’ his memory to recall things and how he goes through the prime numbers or does mental arithmetic to keep calm.

Indeed, there are many mathematical bits in the book, including a joke. And Christopher is going to take A-levels in maths, as the only one in his school. On the one hand that’s great because there’s something he’s good at despite his other difficulties. On the other hand that makes me cringe as it reinforces the image of sociopath math geek.

And there were 11 people in the carriage and I didn’t like being in a room with 11 people in a tunnel, so I concentrated on things in the carriage. And there signs saying There are 53963 holiday cottages in Scandinavia and Germany and VITABIOTICS and 3435 and Penalty £10 if you fail to show a valid ticket for your entire journey and Discover Gold, Then Bronze and TVIC and EPBIC and suck my cock and Obstructing the doors can be dangerous and BRV and Con. IC and TALK TO THE WORLD.

The book is a good and easy read. In part it reads easily because the narrator is so honest – he can’t lie. In addition he’ll explain everything which is non-obvious, the word aneurysm, for example, when he uses it. It’s a bit like he’s looking into the world and trying to make sense of it and we get the loud thinking as a narrative. As such it reminded me a lot of some Kurt Vonnegut books which share a similarly ‘naïve’ style and narrative.

Another book it reminds me of – and you’ll have to marvel the temporal coincidence here – is Die Entdeckung der Langsamkeit, whose protagonist is equally slow, insecure in unkown environments, good at maths and so on.

While I found those two similarities rather obvious, I don’t find the similarity to The Catcher in the Rye too striking – as the critics whose blurbs are printed in the front of the book do. Perhaps my memory fails me here – but perhaps they just like to compare any book about a teenage boy to that one.

Bookmark: 27-03-2004 flight AA 84 Chicago to Frankfurt, seat 12A.

[Buy at amazon .com, .uk, .de]

September 14, 2004, 23:33

Tagged as book, mark haddon.

Comments

Comment by Richard Anderson: User icon

Read it. Liked it. :-)

September 20, 2004, 21:57

Comment by Lindsay: User icon

Although the book was provided a unique outlook on an abnormal behavior/ disorder many know little about, I agree with you in that I hesitate to see the resemblence to that of “The Sound and the Fury” and the “Catcher and the Rye.” Such a bold statement most certainly detracts from the credibility of such timeless novels.

October 26, 2005, 3:46

Comment by janosch: User icon

a very nice book, you can understand very easily! sometimes the plot was sad, sometimes it was funny, all that elements contains “the curious inccident of the dog in the night-time”. when i started reading i couldn’t stop, i finished it in less than 4 hours which is definetly pretty quick for me. i read this book in the train going to work, while i was walking home, or in school. i was emotionally touched when i read the chapter, when cristopher found out, that his mother is not dead, because of reading all her letters the father was hiding all the time…but i do not want to take the suspense away which grows and grows while you are reading!!however, i only can say that the book is very easy to read and recommend it to everyone who likes reading this kind of books

January 3, 2006, 15:45

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