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warning about a book

     Wayne Walker here with a warning about a National Bestseller, Whitbread Book of the Year, New York Times Notable Book, and Today Show Book Club Selection.  This review will appear in the March, 2006, issue of my free monthly e-mail homeschooling newsletter.


 


     Haddon, Mark. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time (published in 2003 Jonathan Cape Ltd., London, England, and by Doubleday and Vintage Books, both divisions of Random House Inc., New York City, NY). Some time ago, I picked this book up on the free table at a used curriculum sale. However, before I could read it, a review of it came out in the Jan. 21, 2006, issue of World Magazine (why it took three years to review it is beyond me). The review said, “When a 15-year old autistic boy discovers his neighbor's poodle skewered by a garden fork, he determines to track down the killer. What sets this book apart os the narrative voice of Christopher Boone, the autistic boy who decides to solve a crime and write a book. His special way of looking at the world–he is unable to lie, to perceive other people's emotions, or to tell a joke–and his love of math (the chapters are numbered by prime numbers) give this book a cock-eyed sensibility and bittersweet charm.” Although Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times compared the book to The Catcher in the Rye, which would give me some caution, because it was about a 15 year old autistic boy who”knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057,” and the author “is a writer and illustrator of numerous award-winning children's books” who “worked with autistic individuals,” I thought that it might be something that would be interesting and good for young people to read, and especially after the encouraging word from World I was looking forward to it. BOY, WAS I WRONG! As I read the first seven chapters, the “f” word appeared TWICE on page 9. As disgusted as I was, I thought that if that was all, I would continue reading. However, as I began the next few chapters, the “s” word appeared on page 11. So I gave it up. While I do not like it, I can abide a little cursing in an otherwise good book. But I have trouble stomaching obscene vulgarity under any circumstances. I understand that this kind of language is more readily acceptable in England, but I am not in England, and even there I would oppose it! There might be something in the book that would help people be sensitive to autistic people, which was probably the intention, but as I am not in the habit of going through other people's garbage to see if I can find some “treasure,” I do not think that people should have to wade through language that is nothing but verbal garbage to find something worthwhile. I am a little disappointed that World did not give more of a warning about the language, because any way you slice it, no matter how “intelligent,” “moving,” “amazing,” and “superb” the critics may think that the book is, that kind of language does NOT represent a Biblical worldview. Perhaps the reviewers of World will now start telling us that maybe, after all, we can subscribe to Playboy for the good articles and just ignore the rest of it. Certainly, a parent who wants to raise his children with godly language would not want them reading a book with these kinds of filthly words. I also have one other concern, and it is that if an author feels that he should use such language in his adult novels, what kind of worldview is he presenting in his children's books? I think that I shall stay away from ANYTHING written by Mark Haddon. Language level: obscenity and vulgarity. Ages: ADULTS ONLY (if that)!  My rating: NOT RECOMMENDED.

2 thoughts on “warning about a book

  1. If this strict criteria for non-offensive writing were followed, we would not have most great litterature. The boy’s unemotional observance of the use of these words is part of the story, it creates a picture for how he sees the world (which is, he doesn’t react to a ‘bad’ word like you might). I don’t know how old your children are, but this is not a book for children. It’s shocking to me that what you protest to is the word f***(i will respectivly keep it out of your blog), and not themes like a stabbed animal, the mother’s affair with the neighbor, which led her to leave her family, or the disturbed lie that the father told christopher about her being dead. These are all powerful, important themes..but maybe too much for a child. The words are minor in their offensiveness and important in crearting a picture for the reader.

  2. To each his own. If others enjoy reading books with vulgar, obscene language in them, even if they are merely an “unemotional observance of these words,” then have at it. If that is what it takes to make “great literature,” I will pass and content myself with godly literature. I did not protest “themes like a stabbed animal, the mother’s affair with the neighbor, which led her to leave her family, or the disturbed lie that the father told christopher about her being dead,” because frankly I never got that far in the book. The anonymous blogger and I do at least agree on one thing: “this is not a book for children.”

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