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Books–The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time October 5, 2006

Posted by caveblogem in Books, Constructivism, Memory, My other blog, Other.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. Mark Haddon–And we continue with this string of very positive reviews.  This book is unbelievably good, and for a large number of reasons.  First, it is smooth story-telling, well written and engaging.  Then there are the themes. 

The narrator is autistic teenager attemting to solve a mystery, which is that somebody killed his neighbor’s dog with a pitchfork.  He is extremely skilled at mathematics, and there are interesting explications of such things as The Monty Hall Problem, and chaotic population behavior over time (for which see the chart I created this morning based on the equation he gives in the book, below). 


The population density looks like it is going to stabilize in that weird problem, but I ran this out to t=60 and it looks wildly different.  And the equation is incredibly simple, not like wrapping your head around cellular automata (yes, I know this stuff is supposed to be simple, but try explaining it to a non-mathematician). 

Anyway, the book, to me, right now, is about how most people in positions where they do most of their work writing or thinking or at a computer are what a character in Douglas Coupland’s latest book Jpod calls “high-functioning autistics.”  Perhaps I am some sort of mental hypochondriac, but I found endless parallels between the way I think and the way this teenage autistic Brit thinks.  Particularly (and Coupland draws some pretty convincing parallels to tech workers) periodic feelings of sensory overload:

“I see everything.

That is why I don’t like new places.  If I am in a place I know, like home, or school, or the bus, or the shop, or the street, I have seen almost everything in it beforehand and all I have to do is to look at the things that have changed or moved. . . .

But most people are lazy.  They never look at everything.  They do what is called glancing, . . . And the information in their head is really simple.  For example, if they are in the countryside, it might be

  1. I am standing in a field that is full of grass.
  2. There are some cows in the fields.
  3. It is sunny with a few clouds.
  4. There are some flowers in the grass.
  5. There is a village off in the distance.
  6. There is a fence at the edge of the field and it has a gate in it.

And then they would stop noticing anything because they would be thinking something else like, “Oh it is very beautiful here, or “I’m worried that I might have left the gas cooker on,” or “I wonder if Julie has given birth yet.”

But if I am standing in a field in the countryside I notice everything.  For example, I remember stnding in a field on Wednesday, 15 June 1994, because Father and Mother and I were driving to Dover to get a ferry to France and we did what Father called Taking the Scenic Route, which means going by little roads and stopping for lunch in a pub garden, and I had to stop to go for a wee and I went into a field with cows in it and after I’d had a wee I stopped and looked at the field and I noticed these things

  1. There are 19 cows in the field, 15 of which are black and white and 4 of which are brown and white.
  2. There is a village in the distance which has 31 visible houses and a church with a square tower and not a spire.
  3. There are ridges in the field, which means that in medieval times it was called a ridge and furrow field and people who lived in the village would have a ridge each to do farming on.
  4. There is an old plastic bag from ASDA in the hedge, and a squashed Coca-Cola can with a snail on it, and a long piece of orange string.
  5. The northeast corner of the field is the highest and the southwest corner is lowest (I had a compass because we were going on holiday and I wanted to know where Swindon was when we were in France) and the field is folded downward slightly along the line between these two corners so that the northwest and southeast corners are slightly lower than they would be if the field was an inclined plane.
  6. I can see three different types of grass and two colors of flowers in the grass.
  7. The cows are mostly facing uphill.

And there were 31 more things in this list of things I noticed but Siobhan said I didn’t need to write them all down.  And it means that it is very tiring if I am in a new place because I see all these things, . . .”

And he has a lot to say about those who go through life thinking they are “normal.” Example:

“Mr. Jeavons, the psychologist at the 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 when 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 suprised 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 wyas of putting things in a nice order.  Ant that was why I had Good Days and Black Days.  And I said that some people who work in an office came out of their houses 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.”


1. jay - October 12, 2006

it’s beautiful. i’m reading the book. I’m half way through. will write about it in a day or two after i finish it on my blog.

2. jaypee - October 26, 2006

I read the book just last week and liked it. Here’s my take on the novel:

3. Tommy Jiang - March 1, 2008

I’m reading this book now, it’s fantastic.

4. Mickey - November 12, 2008

can anyone help me with finding a good thesis for this book? Im writing an essay.

5. Gregory Picon - January 31, 2012

Good write-up, I am normal visitor of one’s website, maintain up the nice operate, and It is going to be a regular visitor for a lengthy time. “Good nonsense is good sense in disguise.” by Josh Billings.

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