Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time was one of those literary works that proved exceedingly popular with readers last decade.  It's about a boy with autism who sets out to discover the identity of the murderer of his neighbor's dog, which leads into all kinds of unexpected directions.

The main thing that sticks out about Curious Incident is that it is written from the point of view of the autistic boy himself, so it's really a book about an interesting perspective, which on the score makes it more than the sum of its parts, which eventually become about everything but the boy's amateur detecting.  Like the more recent Before I Go to Sleep and The Unnamed, it can either be a good or a bad thing to discover that the author at some point decides the setup needs a conventional resolution.  Sleep is a lot like Memento, the Christopher Nolan movie that features a man with a memory problem trying to seek revenge for his wife's death.  From the start it's clear that the main character will be doing more than just trying to make the reader understand their own curious memory problems.  Unnamed is about a strange illness that causes a man to inexplicably start walking at random moments, and eventually becomes pretty involved in that man's relationship not with the world around him but what he decides the illness actually represents, which the author kind of springs on the reader with little warning.

Curious Incident does a good job of basically turning the story anyone will know about it into the red herring of the story, as the boy's real journey is finally figuring out his place in the world, which begins with resolving his relationship with both parents.  This is both a good and a bad thing because Haddon does a better job than either Joshua Ferris in Unnamed or S.J. Watson in making the setup work entirely of its own accord, and letting the reader believe that this is good enough.  Actually, now that I think of it Everything Matters! is probably as close to Curious Incident as I've come.  You can easily see the effect it's had on literature.

Perhaps Haddon could write his own Sherlock Holmes adventure (the main character's hero and title of Curious Incident are taken from Conan Doyle's famous creation) and we might get what we thought this one was going to be.  Just a thought.

It's one of those quick reads, which another good/bad thing.  Good because quick reads are always good.  Bad because you want perhaps a little more than Haddon has available for you.

It might also be worth noting that in a way Paul Murray's Skippy Dies is almost a version of Curious Incident from a more neutral perspective.  All of this is to say that if you like Curious Incident there's plenty of material to explore.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...