The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

In response to T’s question below about Mark Haddon’s exquisite book, I’d just like to say: so long, Flowers for Algernon. I couldn’t help thinking that this surprisingly absorbing and inspiring work written from the viewpoint of an autistic teenager should perhaps be considered for high school curriculum (if it hasn’t been already).

There is such a sense of unabashed honesty, of real empathy, in the writing and in the writer. Christopher’s very real, poignant strivings for independence and understanding make him just as memorable a character as Charley Gordon, if not more so. The book doesn’t indulge in sentimentality, which is a real plus in my mind for something that could well be required reading in high schools someday.

Moreover, when I was finished with the book I felt like I had so much greater understanding of the subjective experience of autism. I remembered reading case studies in an abnormal psychology class about autism, and I was shocked at Haddon’s skill at making something that is so difficult to clinically pinpoint, so real and vivid to the reader.

There are a number of socially-conscious, p.c. reasons to read this book, but the most compelling reason for me to recommend it is simply that it is fascinating, touching, and difficult to put down. The author truly pulls off a major feat in enabling us to see the world through the eyes of an autistic young man whose understanding of emotions is detached and limited, yet who is affected by them just the same. If you don’t read this one, you’re really missing out.

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