I bought three books at Manchester airport yesterday. One of them was The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time by Mark Haddon. I started reading it this afternoon, and have just stopped to slow down. It’s about a young boy with an “emotionally dissociated mind” (a phrase that Ian McEwan used, which I like), who is investigating the death of a dog. The book is written as if by the young boy. The writing is exquisite. I think that is the word that consistently comes to mind when I try to think of a way to describe it. So that’s the word I’ve used here.
The writing is simple. Straightforward. It reflects the exact, black and white reasoning of this autistic child. Sad and funny at the same time. And as I read each sentence, I feel that a lot of work has gone into every one of them. Exactly the right words, the right number, and the right punctuation. It’s almost as if the words on the page, at a level above the story, tell a story themselves. I think the choice of font, which annoyingly is not mentioned in the impressum at the front like fonts used to be (“Printed in some-such-font by some-company in Bungay, Suffolk”), but is a very clean and light sans-serif one, adds to the clarity and directness of thought.
When you eat a bar of chocolate, you eat it chunk by chunk and there’s not much to think about. When you eat a truffle, or some delicate hand-made chocolate assortment, you eat it slowly, bit by bit, enjoying the flavours and appreciating the work that’s gone into making it. But sometimes you just shove it in your gob and it’s gone. I’m trying desperately not to do the latter with this book. It’s too good for that.