Wellington and Christopher John Francis Boone

It’s been sometime that I read a book which could make me chuckle out loud. At 1.31 am. And this one is highly recommended, for it won the 2003 Whitbread Award.
What with all the business books that I’ve been reading for the past couple of weeks, Mark Haddon’s “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time” ((hereinafter referred to as DNT) was a welcome read indeed, if only to get me out of the business mode for a while.
I got the book from my fave book haunt, TwentyTwenty, which is basically a secondhand book store (4th floor, Midlands One-Stop, Pulau Tikus). TwentyTwenty has some contemporary reads and they store really new books – no dog-eared stuff here. You can rent or you can buy off them but either way, you can find some really cool novels and mags here. I found all four of Dan Brown’s bestsellers here. In almost mint condition.
Anyway, back to Haddon’s DNT.
Call me ulu but I’ve not read a book written from the perspective of an autistic teenager called Christopher John Francis Boone. He knows what he likes (maths and physics and prime numbers) and he knows what he doesn’t like (all things yellow and brown, people touching him, when people move furniture).
According to
www.assistivetech.com/info-medicalterms.htm, “autism is a disorder of brain function that appears early in life, generally before the age of three. Children with autism have problems with social interaction, communication, imagination and behavior. Autistic traits persist into adulthood, but vary in severity. Some adults with autism function well, earning college degrees and living independently. Others never develop the skills of daily living, and may be incorrectly diagnosed with a variety of psychiatric illnesses. The cause is unknown.”
He’s also trying to solve the case of who killed Wellington, Mrs. Shears’ black poodle. Like his hero, Sherlock Holmes, he is very sure that he can solve it and he uses logical reasoning to help him through.
I’m just halfway through it but I am beginning to see why Haddon won the Whitbread Award. The book is supremely funny and tender, and pokes us out of our regular way of seeing the world.
His autism means that he doesn’t know when people are angry with him “unless they start shouting loudly”. His world is not like ours, and people, to him, are confusing when they say things without words and talk using metaphors. He doesn’t get it when someone says “We had a real pig of a day” because “a pig is not like a day” (p.15).
Reading this book is a lesson in understanding the autistic. It’s also strange to note that just a couple of weeks ago, I met a woman who worked with autistic children. ML told me that it was difficult to teach some of them as they had very short attention spans but they have very good IQs. They can remember many things if they wanted to.
In DNT, Christopher can be exasperating, willful, scared, uncontrollable and unintentionally funny. He is naively unaware of the world and how it works (that’s why he’s scared and he cannot tell lies) yet he shows absolute persistence and offers logic in trying to uncover who killed the poodle whom he hugged, blood and all. His world is built on the orderliness of life, where numbers and facts make sense, not people. In so doing, he shows us what ‘normal’ people do and say and in his mind, don’t seem very much normal or rational at all!
DNT is an eye-opener. It tells me that there is a lot I don’t know in this world. How some children never lose some labels. How some parents have to fight to ensure their child gets educated, and why pity and embarrassment can be felt, and can hurt the child who thinks he is not normal like the rest of the world.
Haddon shows us, via DNT, what it means to go under the skin of an autistic person. How it feels to be autistic when the rest of the world isn’t.
Or rather, asks us: who is normal? What is normal anyway? Whose standards are we using? And why?
Read more about Haddon in this BBC interview http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/arts/3375965.stm

7 thoughts on “Wellington and Christopher John Francis Boone”

  1. Hi, this is my 1st visit to thy blog; I’m just a three-week-old-, so my ‘rite std is sky-high! (-blogger, I mean.)
    By such coindence, I’m in the midst of reading the same book; when I first detected the “prime numbers” pagination, I thought I struck gold! (Ah, a collectible in my hand!I told myself with a tinge of Scrooge greed! BUT soon the bubble burst, so there goes my multi-thousand ringgit hope, out with the dogshit?)
    Anyway, I set aside Sunday for pieces to promote the Eng lang, hence desiderata.english — and I was planning to review this award-winning bk for next Sunday for two days from now, I promised to give more Poetry, deferred from last Sun’s…have a pe-e-ep of my cyberhome and maybe we’ll trade or enjoy some Sherlock-type mysteries together!
    Chow, Regards,
    YLChong aka desiderata.

  2. hi yl
    good of you to drop in! yes, I know the exhilaration of the prime numbers page and all those IQ tests and funny math formulas (for the life of me, I don’t get!)… Would you believe it if I told you I have yet to read Sherlock Holmes!!! 😉

  3. Hey!! I read the book about a month ago…and I loved it! I especially liked the part when he was travelling alone in the subway…and too many things were going on in his head and he was covering up his ear because he couldn’t take it anymore. Aiyo! That reminds me…of…ME!!! hehehehehe..sometimes…well…quite often…well…you know what I mean. I’m glad you’ve read it and loved it.

  4. Hi Dotty
    Yeah, are we soul sisters or what? What are the odds of you and I picking up the SAME book around the same time and reading it and enjoying it tremendously? When I read it, I realised sometimes we can’t consider ourselves un-autistic right, because they’re so alike us in many ways. My other half thinks like Christopher which I always found weird! Now I ‘see’ his point of view.

  5. I’ve read the book probably between June and July. It was a very powerful book. You are right, I should say it is one of the best books to understand “Autism”.
    There are other movies / shows that show us the meaning of Autism like “Mercury Rising”, “Molly”, “Without A Trace: Volacano (episode 13 of season 3)”, and “Rain Man”. Speaking of “Rain Man”, does Christopher John Francis Boone make the good “Rain Man” of the Mark Haddon Book? If you agree, explain the similarities and differences between Christopher Boone and Rain Man.

  6. Hi Will: Thanks for the heads up about the movies. I have not really watched Rain Man in full so I cannot explain the similarities and differences! Anyone here watched Rain Man before and can dissect him and Christopher Boone? 😉 This is turning out to be an academic exercise!


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