Monday, July 7, 2014

the curious incident of the dog in the night time: a review

I stole Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time off of NL after he read it for a course and loved it. Although it takes a moment to get into, the framework of the story was an interesting concept. Mark Haddon has created a world that could have been gimmicky, but is in fact quite compelling once you get past the odd sentence structure and learn to interpret the narrator Christopher's explanations.

What makes Curious Incident unique is the voice of the narrator Christopher, a youth narrator on Autism spectrum (I am not qualified to discuss whether Christopher is in any way representative of anyone else on the Autism spectrum, and that diagnosis is never mentioned in the novel, but it is at worst an available explanation for Christopher's idiosyncratic experience of life).What the narrator describes is his limited interpretation of a world he relates to with limited tools. Or perhaps not limited, but focused in a way that is different from the general population.

The Christopher doesn't read facial expressions and takes spoken words literally is part of what makes him an excellent beginning detective; he is led only by the facts. There were points in the novel when Christopher's interior/exterior divide makes reading the story difficult. For example, following one particularly traumatic event Christopher retreats into catatonia. He is still the active narrator experiencing and sharing his own inner trauma and his observation of how others interact with his unresponsive body.

I think I recommend this one. Or, I recommend it to certain people. There's a lot more to it, of course, including the use of some of 'Christopher's' sketches within the text, that makes it an interesting book for a writer to read. I'm just not sure the rest of it holds up outside the unusual framework.

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