The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon – Novel and Thoughts

I’ve missed you.

I’m still poorly but getting better.

Fancy a walk after this?

We can catch up properly then.

Today I’d like to talk about the novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (2003) by Mark Haddon. I read this book a few months ago and loved it.

The story is written from the point of view of fifteen-year-old autistic Christopher Boone who thinks novels ‘are lies about things which didn’t happen’ and has a passion for maths:

Prime numbers are like life. They are very logical but you could never work out the rules, even if you spent all your time thinking about them. (from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time)

The novel begins with Christopher finding the next door neighbour’s dog, Wellington, killed with a garden fork. From then, Christopher decides to emulate his favourite detective Sherlock Holmes and tries to solve Wellington’s murder. This adventure brings him in contact with people he would never speak to normally and ultimately forces him to experience situations out of his comfort zone.

Using the simple subject-verb-object sentence pattern in which Christopher tries to order and communicate with his world, Haddon tells his story with warmth and often humor, making us see and understand Christopher’s problems at the same time that we experience everyone else’s frustrations in dealing with him.

All Christopher’s conversations and the events he experiences are recalled from his own point of view, and the reader can easily see how difficult his world is, both for him and for those around him. Read more

The book is clever, thought-provoking, funny and sad. Here’s a funny bit for you:

And then there was no one else in front of the window and I said to the man behind the window, ‘I want to go to London,’ and I hadn’t been frightened when I was with the policeman but I turned round and I saw that he had gone now and I was scared again, so I tried to pretend I was playing a game on my computer and it was called Train to London and it was like Myst or The Eleventh Hour, and you had to solve lots of different problems to get to the next level, and I could turn it off at any time.
And the man said, ‘Single or return?’
And I said, ‘What does single or return mean?’
And he said, ‘Do you want to go one way, or do you want to go and come back?’
And I said, ‘I want to stay there when I get there.’
And he said, ‘For how long?’
And I said, ‘Until I go to university.’
And he said, ‘Single, then,’ (from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time)

Christopher uses maths and the Monty Hall Problem to try and understand life’s choices and possible outcomes. This is the first time I’ve heard of the Monty Hall Problem which is initially baffling but makes sense when you think about it.

The Monty Hall problem is a probability puzzle loosely based on the American television game show Let’s Make a Deal. The name comes from the show’s original host, Monty Hall. The problem is also called the Monty Hall paradox, as it is a veridical paradox in that the result appears absurd but is demonstrably true.

The problem was originally posed in a letter by Steve Selvin to the American Statistician in 1975. A well-known statement of the problem was published in Marilyn vos Savant’s “Ask Marilyn” column in Parade magazine in 1990:

Suppose you’re on a game show, and you’re given the choice of three doors: Behind one door is a car; behind the others, goats. You pick a door, say No. 1, and the host, who knows what’s behind the doors, opens another door, say No. 3, which has a goat. He then says to you, “Do you want to pick door No. 2?” Is it to your advantage to switch your choice?
— Whitaker/vos Savant 1990.

Although not explicitly stated in this version, solutions are almost always based on the additional assumptions that the car is initially equally likely to be behind each door and that the host must open a door showing a goat, must randomly choose which door to open if both hide goats, and must make the offer to switch.

As the player cannot be certain which of the two remaining unopened doors is the winning door, and initially all doors were equally likely, most people assume that each of two remaining closed doors has an equal probability and conclude that switching does not matter; hence the usual answer is “stay with your original door”. However, under standard assumptions, the player should switch—doing so doubles the overall probability of winning the car from 1/3 to 2/3. Read more

This is what the writer Mark Haddon had to say about the Monty Hall Problem on his website:

You’re planning to write to me about the Monty Hall Problem, aren’t you. That’s why you’ve clicked onto this page. I can see it in your mad, swivelling eyes. Well, don’t. Please. I get many letters explaining, at great length, why I’ve got it wrong. I’ve finally given up answering them. Life is just too short. The Monty Hall Problem is famous precisely because the correct answer is so infuriatingly counter-intuitive. The irony is that if you play the game (all you need is three squares on a piece of paper, a pencilled cross and a dice) it becomes rapidly obvious that the ‘change’ tactic increases your probability of finding a car. But there are many very intelligent people who believe that thinking about something is superior to doing it…

So please don’t write to Mark Haddon if you have a question about the Monty Hall Problem or you want to dispute it. I’m putting my stationery set away. I want to see you do the same. Go on. Put down the pen. Put down the pen.

I wish I was good at maths like Christopher Boone but I’m more confident at making up ‘lies about things which didn’t happen’. Damn.

Anyway, you don’t need to understand the Monty Hall Problem to enjoy the book.

Have you read the book?

What did you think?

Leave a comment. It’s good to know.

Mark Haddon is an English novelist, poet and screenwriter who also writes children’s books. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, his first novel, won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award in 2003 and the the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize Overall Best First Book in 2004. His second novel A Spot of Bother was published in 2006 and his third novel Boom! came out May this year. He lives in Oxford with his wife and children.

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“You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.”

Eleanor Roosevelt – American First Lady, Author, Speaker and Politician

CURRENT STATUS: Reminder, Motivator and Review Meeting (Read on if you want to join me in my Corporation of One meeting)

What l have learnt:

What I am doing or have done/decided:

  • Read Charlotte Gray by Sebastien Faulks.
  • Read The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson.
  • Reading Kiss of the Spider Woman by Manuel Puig.

WORD COUNT:

Night Walker 159,000 words. Finished. Leaving to marinate.

Insomniac Foetus Ready to edit. Having a break before I start. I’ve been poorly so I’ve not started on editing yet.

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One Response to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon – Novel and Thoughts

  1. Steve says:

    I really enjoyed the facts shared on this blog. God bless.

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