Just when I start complaining that there is nothing new in narrative style, along comes Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. Listen to this:
“This is a murder mystery novel. Siobhan said I should write something I would want to read myself. Mostly I read books about science and maths. I do not like proper novels. In proper novels people say things like, ‘I am veined with iron, with silver and with streaks of common mud. I cannot contract into the firm fist which those clench who do not depend on stimulus.’ What does this mean? I do not know. Nor does Father. Nor does Siobhan or Mr. Jeavons. I have asked them. Siobhan has long blond hair and wears glasses which are made of green plastic. And Mr. Jeavons smells of soap and wears brown shoes that have approximately 60 tiny holes in each of them. But I do like murder mystery novels. So I am writing a murder mystery novel. Siobhan said that the book should begin with something to grab people’s attention. That’s why I started with the dog. I also started with the dog because it happened to me and I find it hard to imagine things which did not happen to me.”
Genius. Not only does the narrator have a voice that is internally consistent, but there is an internally consistent explanation for why he is telling the story, and also why he is telling the story in the way that it is being told. Maybe it’s a little hokey. Maybe it’s a bit of a “trick”. And I have no idea whether a real autistic person, or a real idiot savant, thinks, or talks, or writes like this. But I don’t have a problem believing that Christopher John Francis Boone does. And, of course, Christopher never tells us that he is “autistic” or an “idiot savant”. That’s a fiction of the reader, or the bookseller, or the reviewer.