Yesterday’s part of this meme was a doozy, but today, it’s going to be even more difficult, not because there’s an excess of books which I hate, but because I actively go out of my way to avoid books which I know I will hate. Since I have a great amount of control over books I read outside of school, I try to not waste that on books which raise my hackles or just aren’t my cup of tea: I worked in a bookstore, so I’ve developed a sense for which books will disagree with me based on the synopsis and cover.
Sometimes though, that fails me, and sometimes a book develops a reputation for being something exceptional, life-changing, and beautiful, and so one can’t resist picking it up, and, when facing the disappointment of finding out that it’s not what you expected, you keep reading, searching for that great epiphany other people promised until the end, when you’re left feeling deflated and foolish, wondering if you just lack the vision of others or if you’re just perceptive in a different way. That is what brings us to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is the story of an autistic boy, Christopher, who, fancying himself to be like his idol, Sherlock Holmes, sets off on a journey to solve a mystery. While he works out what happened to the dog, he does what I imagine the author would describe as “contemplating life, the universe, and everything”, offering looks into his opinions and his past, including his relationship with his divorced parents.
For a book which makes a point of repeatedly pointing out that the narrator has no real emotional connection to others, this one still manages to be extremely cloying and overly sentimental. It’s the absolute worst in terms of pity porn, with Christopher’s narration cloaked in the author’s desperate cry of “Oh, this poor child, can’t you feel the pain of his soulless, joyless existence?” Everything, from Christopher’s asexuality/aromanticism, to his atheism, to his preference for the company of his rat over humans, is amplified to levels of caricature in order to show how sad his life is, rather than just the fact of him having different likes and desires from the mainstream.
By the end of the “mystery” I was ready to call it quits, and was very glad to put the book down, so I could escape Christopher’s mundane ramblings. That wasn’t enough to make me hate it though, what really sealed it was the fact that Christopher was supposed to be a representation of what people like me think, feel, and act like. A lot of people have, disturbingly, taken that at face value, and equated autism with Spockspeak and pitifully dull and painful existences which drive the neurotypicals forced to take care of them bonkers.
I can understand how some autistic people might relate to Christopher, especially if the pitying tone doesn’t translate to them and they see him as sympathetic and likeable. But I can’t get over the fact that the book wasn’t written for autistic people to relate to, it was like a 19th century anthropologist writing a book from the point of view of someone he was studying, in the most condescending way imaginable, for the consumption of white Britons back at home. It’s a literary human zoo of sorts for me, and I can’t get over that, ever. So The Curious Incident of the Dog at the Night-Time will probably forever hold this coveted spot on my least favourite list for quite a while.