Friday, September 08, 2006

the curious incident of the dog in the night-time

Mark Haddon's British novel uses the voice of a near-autistic boy to tell a story of awakening. It is a rite-of-passage story with real resonance for anyone who has ever struggled to learn something or to try something outside the box. The hero of the story uses math as a kind of language throughout the story, which is effective. The rigidness of the prose fits a character who is bound up in his head, the way all creative types can be. The novel makes me wonder if autism and its related syndromes (Asperger's) are a sign of the times. We are creating children who can think and feel in different ways than what is normal, but they are no longer trapped in institutions or unable to communicate at all. Technology and disability legislation have made societies more open to people with illnesses like autism. Still, the biggest limits real people with autism have seem to be primarily with communication. Our society doesn't really seem to connect very well any more, even for normal people, so the children who are stuck in their own minds are probably doubly stuck. This coming of age story allows one such doubly stuck character to escape both the boundaries of his own mind and the boundaries of his society, and the world is a better place because someone has imagined this possibility.
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