The Curious Incident of the Spork in the Night-Time

(TLDR: This site is a real aspie's take on The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. If you don't want to read the long, boring introduction, skip to here.)

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is supposed to be a really excellent book. It made its way to the top of the New York Times bestseller list. It won the Whitbread Book Awards for Best Novel and Book of the Year, the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best First Book, and the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize.[1] Its Goodreads page[2] is filled with glowing reviews, many of which claim that the book helped them understand autism better.[3]

Yet not all the reviews are glowing. This long, rambling one, for example, eventually gets to the point of criticizing "all the words in bold and all the diagrams and illustrations", "this autistic kid is walking around with a knife throughout the book and ceaselessly contemplating shanking strangers with it", and various other points. Some reviewers, such as this one, state that they have Asperger syndrome themselves (yes, that is the condition depicted in the book) and that it is inaccurate and even insulting.

Mark Haddon, the author, has also said this about it: "I have to say honestly that I did more research about the London Underground and the inside of Swindon Railway Station, where some of the novel takes place, than I did about Asperger's syndrome. I gave him kind of nine or 10 rules that he would live his life by, and then I didn't read any more about Asperger's because I think there is no typical person who has Asperger's syndrome, and they're as large and diverse a group of people as any other group in society. And the important thing is that I did a lot of imagining, that I did a lot of putting myself into his shoes in trying to make him come alive as a human being rather than getting him right, whatever that might mean."[1] I beg to differ with his reasoning. He is correct that there is no typical person, but as he is not one of those people and he deliberately did little research, it is very likely that he wrote a character that is unambiguously outside the real experiences of people with Asperger syndrome. Like it or not, there are some commonalities that must not be neglected. If there were no commonalities, the condition would not be a recognized phenomenon at all.

As someone with said condition, I was especially curious to see what the book contained. I now have a copy of it. The first few pages are full of praise such as "Smart, honest and wrenching. ... Mark Haddon's new novel will quickly hook you in."[4] and "For Haddon to have created such a superbly realized autistic world-view is, in itself, remarkable. Brilliantly inventive, full of dazzling set-pieces, unbearably sad, yet also skillfully dodging any encounters with sentimentality."[5] After the praise pages, it says that "As a young man, Haddon worked with autistic individuals". He ought to know what he's talking about in that case, right? Perhaps; perhaps not. Behavior does not fully convey thought.

This website will be dedicated to a review of this book -- TCIotDitNT, for short -- that analyzes its quality and compares Christopher's characterization with my knowledge and experiences. I am aware that I do not represent everyone on "the spectrum", and I am not an expert on such matters, but I believe myself to be more informed than Haddon. Furthermore, while I am no longer fifteen years old, I have a decent memory of myself at that age, since it was not that long ago.

This website is entitled "The Curious Incident of the Spork in the Night-Time" after the practice of "sporking" bad literature. However, I will not engage in the usual custom of mockery, as I dislike the idea; therefore, this will not truly be a "spork" of TCIotDitNT. I will not get on my high horse and call it a "deconstruction", either. It is simply a review.

So, is it a scintillating book full of fantabulous writing and a dazzlingly accurate portrayal, or is it... something else? Let's find out.

  1. Wikipedia
  2. Goodreads page
  3. e.g. this one: "I didn't know much about Asperger's/autism, but reading this FROM his perspective really helped me understand the fascinating way their mind works."
  4. San Francisco Chronicle
  5. The Times (London)

This page was last modified on 17/01/18 (dmy).