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The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Brand new ways of seeing and dead neighborhood pets

By Steve Sedlak

After finishing Mark Haddon’s “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time,” I wished I could find someone to talk to about it. The book isn’t new-it was published in 2003-but I had been seeing it around bookstores for the past two or three years of my life. When I came upon the book at Sixth Chamber on a Friday night at a reasonable price, I decided it was time I got past the kind of goofy packaging of the book and just read it. At around 220 pages, this book isn’t a huge time commitment, but still is a pleasurable and reasonably well-developed novel.The story of the novel is fairly simple. Christopher Boone is an autistic 15 year old living in the UK when he finds the corpse of the neighbor’s murdered dog in the lawn one night. Everything starts there. The reader is introduced to the mysterious death of Christopher’s mother, Christopher’s passions for maths-spelled the British way-and Arthur Conan Doyle books, and eventually the man who killed the dog is arraigned…

But what is most uncannily wonderful about the book is its narration. Everything is told from Christopher’s perspective, and the book the reader holds in their hands is, in the fictional universe of “The Curious Incident,” a book Christopher has labored over for a great deal of time as a part of a school assignment. No doubt inspired by the Sherlock Holmes novels he so loved, the book is the chronicle of Christopher’s own detective work, carried out with the sole purpose of finding out who killed Wellington-the dog he found murdered. It’s a surprisingly simple, yet moving read.

Haddon, who had extensive experience working with autistic children earlier in his life, chose to write this novel from Christopher’s point of view. Such a choice brings up some pretty big questions. What does it mean for Haddon to be writing this book? Should the subject position of the author be negligible? I do not intend to provide any answers to these questions, but I do wish that any would-be readers of the novel consider them while reading.

That being said, the narration of the book is truly artistic. Exploiting Christopher’s narration to the fullest extent, Haddon seems to be pushing the reader to question the way in which human beings make sense of the world around them through the structure of the text itself. When Christopher mentions something that the reader would normally have a good understanding of, he usually follows the reference with an encyclopedic description. Through Christopher’s narration, Haddon persistently makes the reader question how the language of the novel itself operates. When we linguistically think of the words “milky way,” there has to be something that the words signify. Christopher’s narration throws this seemingly natural relationship between language and the “real world” into doubt.

But, then again, what does it mean for an author to be exploiting Christopher’s narration to gain this artistic quality in his work?

Ignoring the politics of the work, “The Curious Incident” is simply an emotionally pleasurable read. The empathy that the work raised in me as a reader-particularly in a shared identification with Christopher himself-could not have been easily crafted by Haddon, and deserves to be commended.

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