Book: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

Good story with an autistic narrator

Mark Haddon
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Doubleday, 2003
ISBN: 0-385-51210-4
226 pages

Like the narrator in Elizabeth Moon's fine book The Speed of Dark, the narrator of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a "high-functioning" autistic. Here, the narrator is Christopher Boone and he's a teenager from a working-class family in Swindon, England. He goes to a special-needs school because of his autism, but he's smart and especially good at mathematics. He plans to take college entrance exams in math and expects to do well on them.

At the start of the book, Christopher is out walking late one night and finds a neighbor's dog that has been killed with a gardening fork. He stays with the dog and when the police arrive, they suppose that he did it. Since he didn't, Christopher decides to find out who killed the dog and, with some help from Siobhan who works with him at his school, he decides to write about his investigation as though it were a murder mystery.

The whodunnit aspect doesn't turn out to be very whodunnit-y. I was rather hoping for a mystery that Christopher would solve with his unique skills. But perhaps that's a bit much to ask. In any case, the point of the book is that Christopher narrates from a rare point of view. And on that count, Mr Haddon succeeds admirably. Christopher has trouble with metaphors, emotions, and inconsistency among other things and it's interesting to read a story in which those aspects of ordinary human life stand out as odd. I have no special knowledge of autism, but I found the large majority of the narrative persuasive. A small number of things did ring false. For example, Christopher quotes Occam's Razor in Latin:

    Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem.

and then renders it in English as:

    No more things should be presumed to exist than are absolutely necessary. (p. 90)

Google suggests that that's a reasonably common translation and there's no indication that Christopher knows Latin. Still, I'd think that someone as smart and literal-minded as he is would have run into the more literal, "Entities are not to be multiplied without necessity" and preferred it. But that's a quibble about a fine book.

Posted: Thu - September 23, 2004 at 07:09   Main   Category: