The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

One of the more unique books I’ve read recently is Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, utilizing the first-person in a truly fantastic fashion. It’s a narrative which is stripped almost entirely of emotional content/context. This has to do with the narrator’s condition–autism or asperger’s syndrome, though it is never explicitly labelled as such in the book proper. (The book jacket, on the other hand, feels no such qualms.) As a result of this, other people represent terrifyingly unpredictable ciphers, with their bewildering array of figurative phrases and startling gestures, because he is incapable of creating mental models of what other people are thinking or feeling, something most people do without even really thinking about. Basically, it seems that he has difficulty differentiating between what is important to pay attention to and what can be safely ignored. As such, his memory recall is astounding, a kind of eidetic memory, down to the number and shape of the spots on a cow that he sees on an afternoon outing. Christopher occasionally blacks out, or becomes incapacitated, because of a kind of informational or emotional overload. He describes it as the way a computer needs to be rebooted when it crashes.

The text of the novel is represented, fictionally, as a detective journal which Christopher starts to write in response to finding his neighbor’s dog dead, with a pitchfork stuck through it–the “curious incident” of the title.

In the fiction that I read, I tend to prefer the fantastic, the speculative, those works which veer into some kind of strange newness. For the most part, I’d rather not read about punks in suburbia or some other thing. If I want reality, as such, I’ll pick up some non-fiction. So, the most amazing thing to me about this book is that, through the voice of Christopher, English suburbia becomes a strange and fantastic place. Something as simple as catching a train to London becomes a nearly epic ordeal.

So, what I’m saying is, this is a pretty fantabulous book.

Read it.

[Errata:

*A good interview with Mark Haddon.

*Some biographical information on the old fellow.

*If you haven’t had enough of Amazon by now…]

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