Mark Haddon was an author and illustrator of children's books, who one day decided to write a book for adults instead. An image popped into his head – of a dead poodle in someone's front lawn, stabbed with a pitchfork – and he thought it was just about the funniest thing in the world (source). Hmm, okay, Mark.
But before we give him the old "you're nuts" treatment, let's take a look at what that turned into. From that image alone, Haddon created the immensely successful The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. It has sold millions of copies (tens of millions, really), won the prestigious Whitbread Award in 2003, and today can be found in bookstores in just about every country in the world (source).
So, what's it all about, then? Haddon's first foray into adult novels tells the story of a fifteen-year-old boy named Christopher Boone, who finds – you guessed it – a dead dog in his neighbor's yard. On the back of most editions of the book, Christopher is described as having Asperger syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder that makes social interactions difficult and uncomfortable. While this certainly seems to describe Christopher's experience in the world, his disorder is actually never specified in the book. He himself only says he has "Behaviour Problems" (73.1).
A fan of Sherlock Holmes stories, Christopher decides to do some detective work of his own, and solve the mystery of who killed the pup. Along the way, he discovers a whole lot more than he expected – both about himself and about parts of the world he never knew existed. If that sounds like a story just waiting to be turned into a movie, well, you're in luck: a film adaption is in the works.
But the book is a precious gem on its own (we feel precious for even putting it that way, but it's true!), as Christopher jumps from advanced astrophysics to the existence of God, from quadratic equations to his favorite animals at the zoo. Christopher's narrative voice is unlike any in literary history, and, against all odds, he makes a wonderful guide for this fascinating journey.
Shmoop has read a lot of books. And we mean a lot. Each of these books has a narrator, of course, and we have to admit: sometimes the narrators can start to blend together.
Well, Christopher Boone is one narrator you'll never forget. After all, this is the only book we know of that's told from the point-of-view of a fifteen-year-old boy with Asperger syndrome.
If nothing else, Mark Haddon has brought us a character who will force us to look at the world from a different perspective. A perspective where the most complex mathematical formulas are common sense, and an everyday conversation is an impenetrable puzzle.
Getting out of our own heads is never a bad thing, so take a seat, pick up the book, and enjoy the journey.
The Autism Question
Since the publication of Curious Incident, Mark Haddon has often been contacted to become spokesperson for autism awareness, or to become involved in various organizations. He declines, saying that he actually knows very little about the subject, and that he didn't specifically create Christopher with autism in mind. Although Haddon did work with autistic children many years before writing this book, they were much more severely disabled than Christopher was, and he didn't see much of a connection between his experiences and the book.
Mark Haddon gets Curious
Check out the Curious Incident section on his personal (and fun!) website.
"The Curiously Irresistible Literary Debut of Mark Haddon"
Check out this interview, in which our fine author discusses the paradox in having a character like Christopher write a book.
"Inside A Curious Mind"
Read this interview to see why Mark Haddon describes himself as a "hard-line atheist," a term we'll admit to never having heard before.
"The Curious Incident of the Novelist Turned Playwright"
You guessed it – another interesting interview with Mark Haddon. We're apparently not the only folks who like to make references to "curious" things a lot in respect to him and this book.
From The Guardian
British newspaper The Guardian has a seemingly innumerable collection of articles about Curious Incident. Here's one of our favorites, but please do search for more.
"Through Innocent Eyes"
Okay, we couldn't help but throw in one more from The Guardian. This one's penned by John Mullan.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (?)
A film adaptation of the book is currently in the planning stages, but has been in the planning stages for quite some time. The first name attached to the project is Steve Kloves, whom you might remember from those most excellent Harry Potter movies.
Another Curious Movie Man
A minor addendum to our last link. For evidence that Curious Incident will perhaps someday be produced, don't forget David Heyman, who collaborated with Kloves on a few of the Harry Potter flicks.
Imaginary Title Sequence
A quirkily-animated book trailer. (We don't know if "quirkily" is a word, but this trailer is sure quirkily-animated nonetheless.)
Haddon on NPR
Check out the author's interview on NPR's Fresh Air in 2003.
Curious Incident Editions
A slideshow of various editions of the book from around the world.
The author, gamely pretending to read his own book. Nice turtleneck!
Bristol Grammar School Production
Delightful photos from a school production of the book.
Haddon's Writing Room
A series in which The Guardian (a British national daily newspaper) photographs an author's studio.