Friday, May 22, 2009

Writing--a Family Habit

Okay, I'm cheating.

I've been keeping up with my writing goals; this is huge for me ... if you know me at all, I'm not always great at the follow-through. The fact that I've been blogging here every day, putting time into my current WIP, and slowly but surely getting my Dark Tower blog going without procrastinating has been a minor miracle.

With that said, it's Friday afternoon of what's been an incredibly long week at work. Pythagorus and I are going to watch a DVRed television show, and he's waiting (not very patiently :-)) for me to finish blogging so we can get to the show. Therefore, I figured that I'd post an essay written by Addie for her summer reading project for Honors Freshman English. It got me thinking ... do you think writing is a genetic trait? Do most writers raise children that are good at writing? Is there an added pressure on children of writers to excel as such?

Interesting to think about. Anyway, here's Addie on The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. I'll be back on track tomorrow : )

"Summer Reading Analysis Essay: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time"
by Addie

I have been required to read many books for school. Some were excellent, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to read them. Others weren't so great, and I hope I never lay eyes on them again. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time didn't completely fall into either category. Some things about this book lived up to my standards, while others confused me or left me wishing the author had done something else. Overall, it wasn't a horrible book; however, it wasn't spectacular either.

When I opened the book, my first observation was how well the author described Christopher Boone, a teenager with autism. His word choice was spot-on such as when Christopher emphasized, “I do not like people shouting at me. It makes me scared that they are going to hit me or touch me (4).” His actions were realistic as well; his reaction of “I turned and walked away (38)” when people laughed at him seemed very realistic considering this book is fictional. Reading the point of view from an autistic adolescent's eyes makes the reader understand how hard life is for him, and how differently he thinks: “In the bus on the way to school next morning we passed 4 red cars in a row, which meant that it was a good day (24).” This makes the story very unique because, to me, it is always interesting to hear a story told from someone else's perspective.

I found Mark Haddon’s graphics to be another positive. They helped the reader understand more effectively what was going on in Christopher's mind. In many books, it is hard to understand exactly what the storyteller is thinking. In this case, though, Christopher makes it easy to understand confusing description. When he got lost at the train station, I found the map Christopher made in his head and drew in his book very easy to comprehend what was occurring.

As the story began to unfold, though, I was confused. A dead dog? Who cares? I wish the author had used more foreshadowing to give the reader a glimpse of what was to come by either making Christopher slowly put the pieces together rather then all at once or made his mother’s whereabouts a little more obvious. Although the writing itself was decent, I thought the plot was a bit lacking. I was also very confused about the relationship between Mrs. Shears and Christopher's father. I had to reread certain parts several times to understand. It seemed like before the dog died, there was no suggestion of an argument between them, but after Christopher mentions confronting her about his detective work, there is a random, unclear conflict.

The thing that confused me the most about this story was the ending. I don't know if I was just hurrying through the book, but after reading the last fifty pages, I had no idea what happened. I had to reread the ending several times to apprehend how Christopher ended up back at his father's house. When I was reading this book, I felt like the author wanted to finish writing it as much as I wanted to finish reading it. If he had put more explanation into it, it would've been easier to realize how and why the book ended the way it did.

Even more then the confusing description, though, I disliked the plot of the ending. While reading the book, the reader becomes somewhat attached to Christopher and wants the best for him. His innocence makes you almost expect a happy ending. However, once you reach the last page, you realize his life is and will always be a bit of a mess. He's always going to have the image of his father killing Wellington in his mind, and having to spend time with him often probably won't help that too much, as he doesn't forgive or forget easily. Christopher’s fear of his father’s violence is shown when he “pushed the bed against the door in case Father tried to come in (217).” It is nice that he gets to live with his mom and his puppy, although a non-autistic child would have problems with divorced parents so I can't imagine how Christopher will respond to this realization when he's older.

If forced to judge, I'd give the book six out of ten stars. If I were the author, I would have tried to tie in some more interesting plotlines for the slow parts in the middle of the book. I also would have made the ending happier, although it would be hard to make the situation any better then it already was. Although I would change a lot, I'd also give myself a pat on the back because writing about an autistic child is inevitably a challenge. It is easy to forget how much work truly goes into books, and from the graphics to the hard-to-nail point of view, this book must have been extremely hard to write. Mark Haddon definitely earned my respect in that regard.