Tuesday, May 31, 2005


I've finished reading Mark Haddon's 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time', and I was very impressed. As I mentioned in a previous post, it's about an autistic boy investigating the killing of a neighbour's dog, and in him Haddon creates a believable hero who somehow generates reader sympathy while at the same time being one of the most excruciatingly irritating characters you'll ever meet.

Haddon is also clever enough to make us view the other characters in the novel through Christopher's eyes, making them appear as stark and aloof as Christopher himself until some little peripheral statement gives the game away. Christopher records dialogue between, say, himself and his father, making it sound like an ordinary conversation, but it's only after several exchanges that it becomes apparent that the older man is crying, or quivering with anger, or crushed under the weight of guilt. If Christopher notices at all, he doesn't see the relevance and ignores it, so we're kept in the dark. As such we swing unpredictably between The World According To Christopher and the real world, making the whole novel continually and intriguingly disorienting.

I found the book's main entry on Amazon, and was not entirely surprised to see its current cover. Gone is the naif artwork and font of the older edition, or any mention of Random House's original marketing to teenagers. The new cover is all ironic non-proportional sans-serif font in lower case, with a standard poodle silhouette upside down in the middle. It's the sort of cover you could hold up while reading it on the bus to tell the world, "I am reading a serious ModLitFic novel, and I shall be discussing it at my book club very soon, making pertinent comments while drinking a very nice chablis."

Or perhaps Random House took my point (beamed at them telepathically over the course of the novel) that maybe, just maybe, the kids@random program isn't the place for books that use the word "c*nt". And here I was thinking that modern youth-oriented publishing was as morally bankrupt as Paris Hilton with a pineapple and a spare evening. Silly me.


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