Tuesday, June 9, 2009

And More Reading...

My recent beach reading was The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, the first novel by Mark Haddon, who has also written poetry and children's books. I really enjoyed it, mostly because of its charismatic narrator and partly because of its appeal to people whose inner child (like mine) is a science nerd, and, yes, I would actually watch a TV program about the spotted newts of Micronesia, the role of dust in outer space, or how ferns reproduce.  But even if you wouldn't, Haddon's book would still be a good read.

It is narrated by a fifteen year-old "Special Needs" boy from Swindon, UK, whose "detective work" leads him to investigate the death of a neighbor's dog and ultimately to navigate the inferno of the London Tube. Christopher Boone creatively interrogates his family members, neighbors, and environment and devises unusual strategies to meet the challenges they pose. Along the way, he has funny and provocative things to say about such varied topics as the role of metaphor in communication, the expanding universe, timetables, the population cycles of frogs, rhetorical questions, and prime numbers. 

Here's a sample:

"Mr. Jeavons, the psychologist at school, once asked me why 4 red cars in a row made it a Good Day, and 3 red cars in a row made it a Quite Good Day, and 5 red cars in a row made it a Super Good Day, and why 4 yellow cars in a row made it a Black Day, which is a day I don't speak to anyone and sit on my own reading books and don't eat my lunch and Take No Risks. He said that I was clearly a very logical person, so he was surprised that I should think like this because it wasn't very logical.

I said that I liked things to be in a nice order. And one way of things being in a nice order was to be logical. Especially if those things were numbers or an argument. But there were other ways of putting things in a nice order. And that was why I had Good Days and Black Days. And I said that some people who worked in an office came out of their house in the morning and saw that the sun was shining and it made them feel happy, or they saw that it was raining and it made them feel sad, but the only difference was the weather and if they worked in an office the weather didn't have anything to do with whether they had a good day or a bad day."

Christopher's habits tend to reveal that everyone else is just as OCD (hooray!), and he refuses to be cowed by authority figures despite his discomfort or fright. I won't give away the ending, but I found it very satisfying.

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