Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Since I’m one of the last to read Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, I won’t waste anyone’s time with another full review. But Book Club B back in Philly (miss you guys!) discussed it tonight, so I wanted to at least mention it here. Suffice it to say I loved the storyline of an autistic boy writing his own murder mystery novel! Other books talk about autism, but by presenting in first person the protagonist’s understated reactions to family crisis, Haddon has given an endearing literary voice to autism.
Two of the passages I most appreciated are ones in which Christopher, the 15-year-old British protagonist, describes how he sees the world. Instead of linear chapter numbers, Christopher uses prime numbers in his narrative:
This is how you work out what prime numbers are. First you write down all the positive whole numbers in the world. Then you take away all the numbers that are multiples of 2. Then you take away all the numbers that are multiples of 3. Then you take away all the numbers that are multiples of 4 and 5 and 6 and 7 and so on. The numbers that are left are the prime numbers.
The rule for working out prime numbers is really simple but no one has ever worked out a simple formula for telling you whether a very big number is a prime number or what the next one will be….
Prime numbers are what is left when you have taken all the patterns away. I think prime numbers are like life. They are very logical but you could never work out the rules, even if you spent all your time thinking about them.
Unfamiliar situations are very tiring because he absorbs every detail:
And when I am in a new place, because I see everything, it is like when a computer is doing too many things at the same time and the central processor unit is blocked up and there isn’t any space left to think about other things. And when I am in a new place and there are lots of people there it is even harder because people are not like cows and flowers and grass and they can talk to you and do things that you don’t expect, so you have to notice everything that might happen as well. And sometimes when I am in a new place and there are lots of people there it is like a computer crashing and I have to close my eyes and put my hands over my ears and groan, which is like pressing CTRL + ALT + DEL and shutting down programs and turning the computer off and rebooting so that I can remember what I am doing and where I am meant to be going.
And that is why I am good at chess and maths and logic, because most people are almost blind and they don’t see most things and there is lots of spare capacity in their heads and it is filled with things which aren’t connected and are silly, like, “I’m worried that I might have left the gas cooker on.”
If you haven’t read this yet, run out to the library today. It’s a sweet, quick, and eye-opening read. If you have read it, chime in here with a favorite plot element or quote.
And did anybody try to work out the answer to Christopher’s math problem in the appendix? He lost me halfway through the question!