Bookworm

Virtuoso

One of my Mothers' Day presents was The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. I got it Sunday morning, and by Monday night I'd finished it.

Without giving anything away, I'll just say it's told from the point of view of a 15-year-old autistic boy. (You probably knew that already; this book is on everyone's list.) Anyway, this boy does not seem to be as high-functioning as, say, Temple Grandin or Dawn Prince-Hughes, whom I wrote about a couple of months ago. He goes to a special school. He has a lot of trouble filtering out irrelevant stimuli. He has no sense of humor. He has obsessive-compulsive disorder. When overwhelmed he rocks back and forth, puts his hands over his ears, and "does groaning." He's also very bright; he's a math prodigy.

The author gets this boy's voice perfectly, and he never falters. If someone told me this was a true autobiography instead of a novel I would have no trouble believing it. It felt absolutely authentic -- every single sentence. What a feat! How did he do it???

The book reminds me of a certain piece of music. It's a trumpet thing they play fairly regularly on CBC Radio Two, a theme and variations. The theme is the melody "My Hat, It Has Three Corners," though I think it's called something else. The variations get harder and harder and faster and faster until by the end you can hardly believe that it's just one person playing. And you think, "Oh my god, that was amazing! What a feat! How did he do it???" But if you step back for a moment, you realize that the underlying theme is a simple nursery rhyme.

And I think that's the case with this book, too. The underlying plot is pretty simple. There's not a lot of depth or moral ambiguity. It's your typical "coming of age" -- or, ha ha, Someone Leaves Town -- story, but it's nothing that hasn't been said before. The author's technique is dazzling, but there's not a lot underneath.

Or is there? Have you read it? What did you think?

11 Comments:

  • Oh! One thing I forgot to mention that I loved about this book: the bits of math sprinkled here and there (remember, the kid is a math prodigy). The math is mostly incomprehensible to an average person like me, but so what? The quadratic formula also made a cameo appearance, heh heh! (See my earlier post on that topic.)

    posted by Blogger Julie on 4:35 PM  

  • I just read that (and picked it as the inaugural reading for my latest book group). Like you, I was impressed with the writing; swept away, really. The plot is pedestrian, which has me a bit worried about discussing it.

    My thought is to bring in the mother's feelings. What do you do when you're overwhelmed by your life? What choices do you make that you wish you weren't forced into?

    And for the dad, how do you let go of anger and hatred? Can you?

    I wonder if the story is a black/white divorce tale--kids want their parents together, right?

    Anyway, these are some of my thoughts.

    posted by Blogger SuzanH on 8:20 PM  

  • I have not yet read it; I've been hearing about it. It's definitely on my list.

    posted by Blogger Sharon on 8:28 PM  

  • Oh , now I Have to read it since it contains that quadratic formula. (I have taught math; don't shoot me!) I have also worked with autistic clients, but not read this book yet. Too many artshows coming up....Maybe I'll reward myself in early June with this as a break. :)

    posted by Blogger Green-Eyed Lady(GEL) on 10:24 AM  

  • I have not read it yet.

    However thought I would let you know I am actually reading this at the library. I was going to look up my site and come here via my links so I could find the name of that book you mentioned was this month's pick. Interesting sidenote. Apparently my site is blocked? Anyway, I took a chance that I remembered your address and here I am. Now....wonder why my site is blocked at the local library.

    Well I guess we are going to be here a while, its pouring down rain. Now to see if that book is here!

    posted by Blogger Sleeping Mommy on 11:22 AM  

  • Suzan, good point. I got so caught up in the boy's voice that I really didn't think about it from the parents' point of view. I do feel sympathetic towards the mom, and the dad, too, although not as much. (Don't want to give anything away.) I hope you write a good long post about it after your group meets.

    Sharon, let us know when you read it.

    Gel, shoot you??? Are you kidding??? I love that stuff as much as you do. And I don't even have the excuse of being a math teacher. Incidentally, I'd love to see your resume some time. Seems like you've done a lot of different and interesting things. And I like your new profile photo.

    Sleeping Mommy, gosh! I'm so touched that you logged on to Bookworm at the library. That is just about the highest compliment anyone could give me. :D I hope you found the book.

    posted by Blogger Julie on 1:17 PM  

  • Julie,
    I'm ashamed to say, I haven't heard of this book at all. (I feel so out of touch with reality... ;) ) You've educated a reader, and I'll be on the lookout for this title.

    Gel you have did everything! Send me that resume too. :)

    posted by Blogger mrsd on 6:44 PM  

  • I haven't read the book, though my sister recommended it.

    However, I can tell you that the piece of music you're describing is:

    Napoli -- Variations on a Neapolitan Song by Hermann Bellstedt.

    It comes from the album "Carnival," a collection of Wynton Marsalis performances. Lest you think I'm too musically sophisticated, I only know this because I have the album, which you're welcome to borrow!

    posted by Blogger doulicia on 7:52 PM  

  • Mrsd, it's not reality you're out of touch with! Literature is the opposite of reality. It's our refuge. (That was a bold statement. I'm not sure I totally agree with myself. Hmmm.)

    Doulicia, how musically sophisticated of you to own the album! ;)

    posted by Blogger Julie on 8:07 PM  

  • I enjoyed the book while reading it (and you are right, it is a super fast read) but when it was over I thought the whole thing was kind of flat, or thin, or something. I wouldn't mind passing it on to someone, but I wouldn't tell them to go out of their way to read it.

    posted by Blogger Kate on 1:49 PM  

  • Gals, (hahaha) you really do not want to read my resume. It's far more boring than this SUPERB book (or most books). Ironically, I recently read this a few wks ago for book group, completely forgetting why the title seemed so familiar.

    I wholeheartedly concur with Julie (and so does my real life book group), that this novel was written so true to life that it's amazing. It flowed as effortlessly as if he WAS this boy. The other characters were just as believable.

    Haddon obviously is intimately knowledgable of people with autism. I wonder if he has a close family member afflicted with such or if he worked with autistic people.It seems that the protagonist has Asperger's Syndrome. This was a terrific read and deserves the award it reaped!I think it may appear empty to those who aren't familiar with Asperger's or autismn. This was supposed to be unemotional or with non-affect in the places where it was. There is much reading between the lines to be done. I liked it enough to purchase a used PB copy after reading it from the library.

    I also adored the realistic use of math from forumlas to tables, grids, and math. The main character, the autistic boy, kept control of his life via structure, particularly using his extraordinary abilities in math. OCD is a common coping tool when it can be channeled, for autistic people. It is VERY hard to channel it though.

    Haddon is also a children's author, but I've not read any of his children's books.

    posted by Blogger Green-Eyed Lady(GEL) on 11:21 AM