21st Century Literature discussion

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
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Oct 12 Curious Incident...Haddon > The Curious Incident of the Dog - Week 1 - Chapter 2-83

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Will (wjmcomposer) For discussion of what amounts to approx. the first 1/4th of the book. What do you think so far? How does the non-traditional narrator strike you?


message 2: by Sophia, Honorary Moderator (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sophia | 1320 comments Mod
I'm really enjoying this. I like a non-traditional narrator. I like interesting ways to tell stories and this one has already told us that he never lies - because he can't - so we are compelled to believe him.


message 3: by Deborah (last edited Oct 01, 2012 06:35AM) (new)

Deborah | 922 comments Mod
Ok. Picture this. It's 8:30 am on a Monday morning, on a street in a suburb of New York City. People walk quickly, eyes fixed on the horizon, faces void of expression. These are people practiced at keeping their thoughts to themselves.

A short woman, approaching middle age and the intersection scurries along, earphones in her ears. Suddenly she bursts into spasms of laughter, then looks around quickly to see if anyone was close enough to hear.

That was me. This morning. (Please note, I, unlike our narrator, can lie, and the modification "approaching" may be a stretch of the truth. Everything else is factual.)

Now I know to be on guard against fits of hilarity.


message 4: by Sophia, Honorary Moderator (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sophia | 1320 comments Mod
Be careful where you read this, then!


Casceil | 1001 comments Mod
The non-traditional narrator provides a very interesting point of view. He can't lie, but he also can't understand a fair amount of what it going on around him. We see what he sees, and sometimes we know that there is more to it than he understands.


Julie (readerjules) | 138 comments I read this book two years ago so I don't remember a lot of details to participate in a discussion, but I can say that I liked this book very much and loved seeing inside Christopher's head.

In my review I wrote this:
Near the beginning, the main character Christopher writes "This will not be a funny book. I cannot tell jokes because I do not understand them" but I found plenty to chuckle at.


Deborah | 922 comments Mod
It's interesting how Haddon sets up an interesting task for the reader. While it is easy to like Christopher, it is hard to feel empathy for him. Or even sympathy. He isn't sad.

And yet, as you careen through one monumental catastrophe to the next, insulated by his indifference there's a voice in your head going, "Wait! Wait!"

So far though, I can't help thinking we've selected a mystery that is not actually a mystery. It is literary fiction. And he is detecting. But still.


message 8: by Julie (last edited Oct 02, 2012 09:25AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Julie (readerjules) | 138 comments Deborah wrote: "So far though, I can't help thinking we've selected a mystery that is not actually a mystery. It is literary fiction. And he is detecting. But still...."

No, I wouldn't really call the book a mystery. Especially since the mystery is solved long before the end of the book.


Casceil | 1001 comments Mod
I, too, noticed that this was not a mystery. I wasn't paying much attention when nominations were going on, but if we do this next year, we should try for something that actually falls in the genre.


message 10: by Sophia, Honorary Moderator (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sophia | 1320 comments Mod
Yes, I agree the book is hardly a mystery. Even so, I'm glad it won the poll; it's been on my ‘to-read’ list for ever. I now appreciate why Haddon won so many awards for a work of literary fiction!


Casceil | 1001 comments Mod
Discussion seems to have died out on this book, which I find sad because it's the only one of the six books for the month I have actually finished. I had mixed feelings when I finished it. I loved the first half, when there was a mystery, and we (the readers) knew there was a bigger mystery Christopher wasn't aware of, about his mother. From the point where Christopher figured that out,the book was much less fun. It really turned into a very different kind of book, and a much less enjoyable one. Anyone else have any comments on the huge tone shift in the later part of the book?


Julie (readerjules) | 138 comments I read it awhile ago but I did like the beginning better than the end. I did read it much, much faster than I normally read a book, so at the time I thought maybe I was just getting tired of reading so much. But now, I don't know. I think I may agree with you.


Julie (readerjules) | 138 comments Actually I am not sure the end was any worse than the beginning but it was different. And I wanted the end to be as fun as the first part but if the first part was like the rest, I probably wouldn't have minded. The change was just weird. I feel like I am rambling more than I am making any sense. :-)


Casceil | 1001 comments Mod
If the first part had been more like the end, I doubt that I would have finished the book. In the beginning,, the character is bing independent, recognizing his own limitations (at least most of them) and carrying on despite them to accomplish a goal. I admired him. I didn't feel sorry for him, particularly, since he did not feel sorry for himself. He just took life as he found it. By the end of the book, though, he lost that independence and ambition to live like everybody else. His anger toward his father was understandable, but the story was less engaging.


message 15: by Sophia, Honorary Moderator (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sophia | 1320 comments Mod
Yes, you're right. It's a very different story by the end of the book. I enjoyed both halves, but the first was definitely wackier.


James E. Martin | 36 comments it's true that the book is not a mystery in the usual sense, but it's interesting to consider how christopher is an extreme (absurd) twist on the hard-boiled macho P.I. of detective fiction. After all, he does not show emotion in the usual way, he is incapable of lying, his focus is almost superhuman. It brought to mind an almost opposite twist on the Tourette's-afflicted main character in Jonathan Lethem's Motherless Brooklyn.


Will (wjmcomposer) Yes, I realize that for many people it doesn't seem much like a mystery, but there's a process that makes the detective story work, and it's deconstructed and put back together in a novel way in this book.

I really liked James E.'s observation of the twist on the usual P.I. macho theme, and I suspect that is more or less what the author was approaching. I think that up to this point of the book, there's essentially no difference between this and say, one of Robert B. Parker's early Spenser: For Hire novels, despite the two characters being deliberate opposites of each other. I was sort of hoping somebody would notice this before I made more threads for the book this month, which I will now do later today...


Casceil | 1001 comments Mod
James E. wrote: "it's true that the book is not a mystery in the usual sense, but it's interesting to consider how christopher is an extreme (absurd) twist on the hard-boiled macho P.I. of detective fiction. After ..."

Good point. And I had not seriously considered that. Christopher is an interesting contrast not just to hard-boiled detectives, but also to the many amateur detectives who keep stumbling across bodies in their small town, in houses they are renovating, at their bed and breakfast or their craft store or coffee shop, or wherever they live or work. I'll have to think about this.


Daniel | 740 comments Mod
I've just started reading this, and my opinions are rather mixed. I'm certainly outside what seems to be the group consensus of enjoyment.

I often get thrown off track by something very petty or minute while reading, and it tends to spoil some fairly brilliant pieces of writing for me. With this book, I was really enjoying the concept of the metaphor as a lie. This was played to superb effect when the vicar tries to explain heaven to Christopher. Then, after so much attention paid to metaphors as lies, Christopher proceeds to use the metaphorical term "red herring" over and over again. The plot device is not actually a fish, and it's not readily apparent why this particular metaphor is acceptable.

The discussion here on the different halves of the book has me both hopeful and fearful of rounding the corner. I'll have to weigh in with my counter-culture response to that question once I finish...


Deborah | 922 comments Mod
I loved the opening but I'm about a third of the way through, and I'm with you Daniel. Somewhere it became somewhat laboriousness. I feel very shallow for not enjoying it more.


Casceil | 1001 comments Mod
Daniel, "red herring" is an idiom. I think Christopher gets the distinction. It's been a few weeks since I read the book, so I don't remember for sure, but I think Christopher may have even explained the concept at some point. Anyway, "red herring" is a term of art in mystery writing/criticism/discussion, and it seems like Christopher might understand that, in this context, red herring has this meaning, rather than seeing it as a metaphor. Given his age, he may not have even encountered herring, the fish.


Daniel | 740 comments Mod
@Deborah: Thanks for the company!

@Casceil: No argument from me that it's technically an idiom, but I don't necessarily think that Christopher can make the distinction. When describing metaphors, all of his examples are actually idioms:

I laughed my socks off.
He was the apple of her eye.
They had a skeleton in the cupboard.
We had a real pig of a day.
The dog was stone dead.

This was the big reason why red herring rankled me so much. Why is "red herring" acceptable as truth, but not "apple of her eye" or "stone dead"? And I only bring it up here as an example of how my current dislike centres more around personal issues than anything of real substance (i.e. it's me and not the book). In many ways I feel like the person left cold at a funny joke, but I suppose such is the nature of art.


message 23: by Casceil (last edited Oct 16, 2012 02:14PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Casceil | 1001 comments Mod
You know, the conversation I thought I was remembering about idioms might be the one you just described about metaphors, and you are right that he is perhaps not consistent in using "red herring" without explaining that he's not talking about fish. I think part of the reason the book isn't working for you is that you are reading it right after the Graveyard Book. I don't know how we ended up with two young acult books this month, let alone two that are each quirky in a different direction. But, after finishing the Graveyard Book Sunday, and looking back at Curious Incident this morning, I must say that Curious Incident does suffer by comparison.


Daniel | 740 comments Mod
You may be on to something there, Casceil, but I think it's just as much to do with the way I process what I read. I just finished reading the part where Christopher finds the letters, and my brain went into full revolt. I'm going to slog through to the bitter end, but this just doesn't seem to be a book that I can enjoy.

Having said that, however, I can totally see why other people enjoyed it. The scenes with Siobhan are incredibly well conceived, and I do enjoy many of the little observations—like how yellow makes Christopher sad the same way rain makes many people feed sad. There are many rewarding passages, but too many personal "What?!?" moments have taken me out of the action.


message 25: by Daniel (last edited Oct 21, 2012 09:14AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Daniel | 740 comments Mod
Since everyone else has already posted in this thread about the difference between the two halves, I'm going to put a temporary post here with a big spoiler tag [post has now been moved to the next thread].


Julie (readerjules) | 138 comments I liked getting inside Christopher's head Daniel. Probably because it was just so darned...odd. :-)
I do understand how little things in a book can be very irritating though!


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Robert B. Parker (other topics)