This blog is now retired. My new site is at: Predictably Irrational.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Book Review: the curious incident of the dog in the night-time by mark haddon

I love, LOVE this book. This is, by far, my favorite in the past year (from today) and quite possibly, of all-time. I just can't really remember what I've read in prior years to compare, mainly, because I have a brain freeze since I am just blown away by this one. It certainly would be in my top five of all-time favorites...

I can tell how much I love it because all I feel like doing is citing from the book.

The book is written (in character) by Christopher, and soon I come to understand upon reading further that he's autistic. He's a young boy -- I thought younger than the 15 years that the book jacket states. One morning, Christopher happens to see that a neighborhood dog has been killed (murdered) and he decides that he must complete some detective work to figure out who killed "Wellington".

This is what launches us into the fascinating mind of Christopher. The entire story is written by Christopher and I learn how he thinks and how everything from his perspective is "literal". Christopher cannot really relate to emotions, other than dealing with stressful moments that are not "literal" for him. His reactions to these stressful moments are to groan, howl, yell, or succumb to complete silence.

Many times, he can logically steer himself away from groaning by doing math in his head, like doubling numbers: getting to 33554432, which is 2 to the 25th power -- which is not his record (2 to the 45th power). Or he concentrates on his foot steps: left, right, left, right, left, right. He does many things to calm himself in situations that are the 'norm' for the rest of the world: walking from the house to the train station, being in crowds, etc.

Christopher only allows people who he trusts to be in his intimate circle of "friends", but they are still not allowed to touch him. His dad and Siobhan, his teacher. It is fascinating to read how his dad deals with Christopher's day-to-day oddities and how Siobhan, whom Christopher refers to many times, instructs him to function with the rest of the not-literal society.

I love how he uses the number of colored cars to determine his day:
4 red cars in a row made a Good Day
3 red cars in a row made it aQuite Good Day
5 red cars in a row made it aSuper Good Day
4 yellow cars in a row made it a Black Day

When asked why he used this to determine his day he compared it to how people who get up in the morning have a good day when the sun was shining and it made them happy, but when it was raining it made them sad. But if these people worked in an office, the weather really didn't impact them, yet this is what determined their Good and Bad days. Brilliant!!!

And these things are riddled throughout the book -- pure logic. There are references in footnote form to explain how he came to know this, and there is even an appendix with the answer to this question:

Prove the following result:

A triangle with sides that can be written in the form of n-squared + 1, n-squared - 1 and 2n(where n>1) is right-angled.

Show, by means of a counterexample, that the converse is false.

The answer covers about 2 1/2 pages. BTW, the chapters in the book are written in prime numbers.

Christopher is a math whiz and an observant genius. He can look at a field and know right away how many cows and goats are in the field, and the patterns of which the cows displayed on their bodies.

It is by far, one of the most original stories I have ever read and I think the world of Mark Haddon to put this together.

I relate so much to Christopher that I wonder if I have autistic abilities. No, I'm not a genius or a whiz by any means, but I think very literal. I call it logical and really, what I tell most people is "I don't do circles" or "I think in squares", as in the shape, not in math.

Most of the things that Christopher explains makes so much sense. When he talks about similes and metaphors, he talks about their literal definitions and how confusing it was to hear someone say "I laughed my socks off". He had to be taught that this is a metaphor which is very different from a simile: talking about looking at a police officer's nostrils "It looked as if there were two very small mice hiding in his nostrils."

This is a book I would read again. I need to add this to my collection (it's a library book). I learned so much from Christopher's line of thinking and you know, I quite like it.

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