Monday, October 23, 2006

What I've Been Reading

I have been reading a couple of books for a month now, and after a feel false starts and some books that just put me to sleep, I’m finally back into the grove of things. Let me start with the disappointments. I wasn’t impressed with either Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, or The Curious Incident of The Dog in The Nighttime.

I disliked the two for very different reason. I was aware before beginning Heartbreaking, that many had found the playful introduction too self-referential and sardonic. I happen to enjoy books that can be treated as artifacts, and like authors that have a sense of play. But for the subject matter at hand, Egger’s fictional account of his f*cked up family, the self-referential beginning, and the sarcasm came up as bitter, and uninspired. After 40 pages, I could picture the author one of those self-pitying asshole types, who excuses his whole life because of his dysfunctional family. I know, it’s a snap judgment before I even got to the meat of the book, but I’ve read enough to know that the dysfunctional family thing can be done with grace and subtlety. Like its title, Heartbreaking was just a little too self-aware, a little too much telling and not enough showing. I won’t be trying to finish this anytime soon.

Next comes The Curious Incident of The Dog in The Nighttime, a story narrated from the standpoint of an autistic 15-year-old. I was unimpressed. I admit that the story does take you into the perspective of someone who is autistic, but honestly it all felt too simple, not enough shades of what it means to be seen and treated differently because your brain does not work in the same way as the majority of the population.

Contrary to claims from reviews, I did not feel emotionally connected to Christopher, our autistic protagonist. This may be a matter a personal taste, it may also be a matter of expecting more from what I read if the narrative or the plot isn’t enjoyable. I suspect that many people claim to love this book because it’s an extremely simple read, and it’s about an autistic kid. Having said all this, I have to admit, if you like the concept of a simple story from the eyes of someone autisitc, Haddon does it well… For an interesting piece that asks whether autism is truly a disorder or a different kind of human being, go here. Check back later for more mini summations of what I’m reading.

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