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The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

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The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time Cover

 

 

Author Q & A

What research did you do into Autism and Behavioural problems before writing this novel, is Christopher's character based on anyone in particular?

After leaving university I spent several years working with adults and children who had a variety of physical and mental handicaps (as they were then known). Ever since that time I've been interested in the subject of disability and mental illness. As a result, hardly a week goes by without me reading an newspaper article or watching a television documentary about schizophrenia or manic depression or Tourette's… And hardly a month goes by without me meeting yet another person who is the parent or grandparent of someone who has been diagnosed as having Asperger's. I also know a number of adults (men, mostly) who would almost certainly be diagnosed with the syndrome if they had been born twenty, thirty, forty years later. And that was the extent of my 'research'. I deliberately didn't consult fat tomes on Asperger's or visit special schools when I was working on the book because I wanted Christopher to work as a human being and not as a clinical case study.

The book has been published for adults and children simultaneously; did you set out to write a book which would appeal to such a wide age range?

No. I wrote it to entertain myself (which is, I think, the motivation behind any half-decent novel) in the hope that there would people out there who shared my interests and obsessions. So the much-vaunted 'crossover appeal' came as a very pleasant surprise.

Have you received any positive feedback from people with Aspergers Syndrome/ Autism, their families, or people who work with them?

To be scrupulously honest… the book had one very bad review from a young man with Asperger's who thought the book was bad, mainly because Christopher wasn't like him or like any other people he knew with Asperger's. But the review missed the point, I think. People with Asperger's are as diverse a group as Belgians or trumpet players or train drivers. There is no typical or representative person with Asperger's. And to try and create one would have produced a stereotype.

On the other hand I've been genuinely moved and completely taken by surprise by the number of parents and grandparents of young people with Asperger's who have written to tell me that the book rings completely true for them.

I have been even more surprised to receive several invitations to address academic conferences on Asperger's and Autism. Which misses the point in a different way, I think. If Christopher seems real it's because he's well-written not because I'm an expert in the area. We live in an age obsessed with documentaries, with biographies, with investigative journalism. We often forget that you can have all the facts but be no nearer the truth. And this is what novels are good at. A novel can put you inside another person's head and give you an understanding of their life you could only get by moving into their house for six months.

How did you come up with such and original idea for a novel?

It happened piece by piece and without any deliberate seeking after originality or quirkiness. I began with the image of the dog stabbed with the fork simply because I was searching for a vivid and gripping way of starting a novel. I then realised that if you described it in a flat, emotionless, neutral way it was also (with apologies to all dog lovers) very funny. So I had the voice. Only after using that voice for a few pages did I work out who it belonged to. Having done that the difficult thing was to work out a believable way for Christopher to construct a novel given that he is utterly unaware of the reader's emotional responses to what he is writing. Having Christopher simply copy his hero, Sherlock Holmes, by borrowing the format of the murder mystery was the solution to this problem. Finally, because I genuinely believed that very few people would want to read a novel about a teenage boy with a disability living in Swindon with his dad, I arranged the whole plot round the central turning point (where we discover who killed Wellington and what really happened to Christopher's mother) to make it as entertaining as possible, hopefully dragging the reader up to a highest point right in the middle, like a roller coaster, then speeding them down towards the conclusion.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 5 comments:

elijahrs, January 31, 2013 (view all comments by elijahrs)
I am very picky about the style and quality of writing, and Mark Haddon's curious indecent of the dog in the night time. I'd one of the best books I have ever read. It's about autism and how someone with it deals with the world around them and high emotions when they do not understand emotions.
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(2 of 2 readers found this comment helpful)
Patty King, January 1, 2011 (view all comments by Patty King)
I loved this book. It was fascinating to read through the eyes of an autistic boy. It was difficult to see what this poor boy's disease did to those he loved. Great read. I highly recommend it.
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Kimberley Graham, January 1, 2011 (view all comments by Kimberley Graham)
Heartbreaking, yet radiant: it's an amazing walk through life inside autism. Stunning!
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780385512107
Author:
Haddon, Mark
Publisher:
Doubleday Books
Author:
Lawrence, Caroline
Location:
New York
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
England
Subject:
Autism
Subject:
Savants (savant syndrome)
Subject:
Savants
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Subject:
Mysteries & Detective Stories
Copyright:
Edition Number:
1st ed.
Edition Description:
B-Hardcover
Series Volume:
331
Publication Date:
20030731
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Grade Level:
from 3 up to 7
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Yes
Pages:
320
Dimensions:
8.66x5.72x.88 in. .84 lbs.
Age Level:
from 8 up to 12

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Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$8.95 In Stock
Product details 320 pages Doubleday Books - English 9780385512107 Reviews:
"Review" by , "[A] bittersweet tale....A kind of Holden Caulfield who speaks bravely and winningly from inside the sorrows of autism: wonderful, simple, easy, moving, and likely to be a smash."
"Review" by , "For Haddon to have created such a superbly realized autistic world-view is, in itself, remarkable. Brilliantly inventive, full of dazzling set-pieces, unbearbly sad, yet also skilfully dodging any encounters with sentimentality, this isn't simply the most original novel I've read in years...it's also one of the best."
"Review" by , "[S]tark, funny and original....[I]t eschews most of the furnishings of high-literary enterprise as well as the conventions of genre, disorienting and reorienting the reader to devastating effect."
"Review" by , "A stroke of genius, as the advantages of having a naive, literal-minded boy in the driving seat are manifold... we do learn what it might feel like to have Asperger's Syndrome."
"Review" by , "Superb....Bits of wisdom fairly leap off the page."
"Review" by , "A kind of Holden Caulfield who speaks bravely and winningly from inside the sorrows of autism: wonderful, simple, easy, moving, and likely to be a smash."
"Review" by , "The book gave me that rare, greedy feeling of: this is so good I want to read it all at once but I mustn't or it will be over too soon"
"Review" by , "This original and affecting novel is a triumph of empathy; whether describing Christopher's favorite dream...or his vision of the universe collapsing in a thunder or stars, the author makes his hero's severely limited world a thrilling place to be."
"Synopsis" by , Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. And he detests the color yellow.

This improbable story of Christopher's quest to investigate the suspicious death of a neighborhood dog makes for one of the most captivating, unusual, and widely heralded novels in recent years.

"Synopsis" by , Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. Although gifted with a superbly logical brain, Christopher is autistic. Everyday interactions and admonishments have little meaning for him. Routine, order and predictability shelter him from the messy, wider world. Then, at fifteen, Christophers carefully constructed world falls apart when he finds his neighbors dog, Wellington, impaled on a garden fork, and he is initially blamed for the killing.

Christopher decides that he will track down the real killer and turns to his favorite fictional character, the impeccably logical Sherlock Holmes, for inspiration. But the investigation leads him down some unexpected paths and ultimately brings him face to face with the dissolution of his parents marriage. As he tries to deal with the crisis within his own family, we are drawn into the workings of Christophers mind.

And herein lies the key to the brilliance of Mark Haddons choice of narrator: The most wrenching of emotional moments are chronicled by a boy who cannot fathom emotion. The effect is dazzling, making for a novel that is deeply funny, poignant, and fascinating in its portrayal of a person whose curse and blessing is a mind that perceives the world literally.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is one of the freshest debuts in years: a comedy, a heartbreaker, a mystery story, a novel of exceptional literary merit that is great fun to read.

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