The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark HaddonAuthor: Mark Haddon
Publisher: Vintage Contemporaries (2004)
Number of Pages: 226
How long it took me to read: 3 days
Where I got this book: A friend lent it to me.
ISBN: 978-1400032716

Like a Moth to a Flame

A friend who knows I happen to enjoy more non-traditional styles of storytelling suggested Haddon’s book to me. I had never heard of either the book or the author, but I decided to give it a shot once I discovered the basis of the plot. It’s always dangerous territory when authors try something a little more unconventional in comparison to most mainstream fiction, but I always find the temptation to discover whether or not they succeeded too strong to resist.

Favorite Five

I propose that the top 5 quotes from this book are:

5. “I do not like talking to strangers. This is not because of Stranger Danger, which they tell us about at school, which is where a strange man offers you sweets or a ride in his car because he wants to do sex with you. I am not worried about that. If a strange man touched me I would hit him, and I can hit people very hard.” (p.34)

4. “And I replied, ‘But I don’t feel sad about it. Because Mother is dead. And because Mr. Shears isn’t around anymore. So I would be feeling sad about something that isn’t real and doesn’t exist. And that would be stupid.’ ” (p.75)

3. “And it’s best if you know a good thing is going to happen, like an eclipse or getting a microscope for Christmas. And it’s bad if you know a bad thing is going to happen, like having a filling or going to France. But I think it is worst if you don’t know whether it is a good thing or a bad thing which is going to happen.” (p.215)

2. “A lie is when you say something happened which didn’t happen. But there is only ever one thing which happened at a particular time and a particular place. And there are an infinite number of things which didn’t happen at that time and that place. And if I think about something which didn’t happen I start thinking about all the other things which didn’t happen.” (p.19)

…and my pick for the No.1 quote is…

1. “I think people believe in heaven because they don’t like the idea of dying, because they want to carry on living and they don’t like the idea that other people will move into their house and put their things into the rubbish.” (p.33)

Conversation with the Reader

While I read, I write, and as I write, I read. Here’s some of what I wrote while I read this book:

Before I started to read this, my biggest concern was the ability of the author to convey his narrator (Christopher; a young man who suffers from an unidentified form of what I would have to believe is autism) without coming across as offensive, or at least without losing or changing the very specific and highly original voice that he set out to capture. As I read though, all of my worries are quickly disappearing. The brilliant portrayal of Christopher never seems to fade or falter at any point, and I’m very impressed with how well the author manages to consistently keep a balance between the action of the story and the narrative mind-set of the protagonist without losing track of the many unique traits that he establishes for such a distinctive character.”

“I’m surprised that, at its heart, this book is really a story about the complexities of family life. While advertised as a detective novel (even by the narrator himself), there’s an underlying tale of domestic instability that seems almost invisible to Christopher as it becomes gradually more blatant and present in the story. What I have yet to figure out though is whether or not he understands the full spectrum of events that he’s caught up in. It’s made abundantly clear that he’s an exceptionally observant individual, and has no problem at least identifying the actions of others around him. For example, while he understands what an affair is and can identify all of the components that would classify as a person acting unfaithfully in a relationship, I’m never really sure if he understands the corresponding implications. It’s a family tragedy, but one that seems a little lost on him, I’m afraid. As much as I would hate to be in a similar situation with my family, I know that instances of pain and struggle in my life have been an important part of my growth as a person. Without those feelings, I’m not sure what he really takes away from all of this.”

“I really enjoy the juxtaposition between the innocence of Christopher’s personal writing style and his recordings of the events around him. While incredibly intelligent and observant, it’s easy to imagine him as a very innocent person based solely on his manner of writing. However, Haddon occasionally jars me out of this feeling when he has Christopher casually throw in dialogue from those around him. It reminds me that, despite how innocent he seems, he still lives in a world where people curse at him, threaten him, and belittle him on a regular basis. While he takes notice, he observes and records these instances the same as he would the color of a passing car, rather than take them with any insult. I find myself growing angry at this, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to handle the same treatment as complacently. It’s strange to read about someone who doesn’t feel offense at this type of behavior when I know that anyone hassling me would be sure, at the very least, to hear what’s on my mind.”

“What troubles me most as I finish the book is the emotional conflict with which I’m presented. Since Christopher has no control over his behavioral issues, he’s the type of person who is near impossible to find blame with or get mad at. He’s an undeniably sympathetic character, but, through no fault of his own, he’s very distant from an emotional standpoint. As much as I feel like it’s such a sensitive subject to discuss, he’s still the narrator. It’s excruciatingly hard not to analyze him in the same way I would any other character in a story. Part of me feels guilty, as if I’m touching on something taboo or too sensitive, but with the whole book written from his perspective, I don’t believe that the author would want me to avoid these feelings. I’m in Christopher’s mind, and it’s hopeless not to think about how I relate to him. I find myself caring for Christopher, but he’s not the type of person whom I could ever really comprehend on a more intimate level. His view of the world is extremely logical, which I really do find beautiful in its own phenomenal way. However, it’s not a trait that I can connect with emotionally too often. His parents, on the other hand, while sometimes misguided (or with the mom, just absolutely terrible on many levels) are much easier characters to empathize with at times, even when I wish this wasn’t the case. I believe it’s their frustration that I have the easiest time relating to, despite how much I’d like to pretend that I’m not easily upset by incompatibility issues with my own loved ones. However, I can’t help but wonder if I would find this book anywhere near as memorable and emotional if the author hadn’t brought out this conflict in me.”

Jared Dee

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