Researcher and Writer in Washington, DC

Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (New York: Vintage 2004)

Haddon-Curious-Incident

Click image to buy a copy.

“A Peculiar, Amusing, and Impressive Story,” by Kevin R. Kosar, September 17, 2009

Christopher John Francis Boone has Asperger Syndrome, a disease a bit like autism that leaves its victims with very limited abilities to empathize or interact with other human beings.  This is his story.  As told by him.

Before you say, “Oh, dear—too weird for me” and surf to somewhere else on the World Wide Web, let me beg you to read just a little bit more.  Like Mark Haddon‘s later effort, Spot of Bother, this novel is funny in an English way.  Witness its start:

It was 7 minutes after midnight. The dog was lying on the grass in the middle of the lawn in front of Mrs. Shears’s house. Its eyes were closed. It looked as if he was running on its side, the way dogs run when they think they are chasing a cat in a dream. But the dog was not running or asleep. The dog was dead. There was a garden fork sticking out of the dog…. I decided that the dog was probably killed with the fork because I could not see any other wounds in the dog and I do not think you would stick a garden fork into a dog after it had died for some other reason, like cancer, for example, or a road accident. But I could not be too certain about this.

Christopher has written this book because a special education teacher of his  encouraged him to keep a  diary of his effort to determine who killed the dog and why. Whereas his parents want to protect Christopher from the outside world as much as possible, his teacher realizes that he needs to nudged engage it.  The world is here; one cannot hide from it forever.

The Curious Incident is a diary, a detective story, a coming-of-age story, and a first-person view of lower, middle-class suburban English life.  This is an odd amalgam, but Haddon makes it work wonderfully.

As Christopher works his way through the mystery, we the reader can laugh at his razor-sharp (though sometimes inhuman) observations, cringe at the uneasy moments his curiousity instigates, and ache at his suffering. It is impressive and ironic that Haddon has created a character who cannot feel for others, but for whom we readers cannot help but feel.

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