Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Bow-wow Wow

(ANNOUNCEMENT: The McVie Show has been off the air for two days now. Since Sunday I’ve been under the weather thanks to a particularly virulent cold virus. My throat still feels itchy and I still get headaches every now and then. But the forced downtime has allowed me to catch up on my reading. Thus the following episode.)

Asperger Syndrome is a neurobiological disorder which described a pattern of behaviors in several young boys who had normal intelligence and language development, but who also exhibited autistic-like behaviors and marked deficiencies in social and communication skills.

Persons with AS show marked deficiencies in social skills, have difficulties with transitions or changes and prefer sameness. They often have obsessive routines and may be preoccupied with a particular subject of interest. They have a great deal of difficulty reading nonverbal cues (body language) and very often the individual with AS has difficulty determining proper body space. Often overly sensitive to sounds, tastes, smells, and sights, the person with AS may prefer soft clothing, certain foods, and be bothered by sounds or lights no one else seems to hear or see. It's important to remember that the person with AS perceives the world very differently.

By definition, those with AS have a normal IQ and many individuals (although not all), exhibit exceptional skill or talent in a specific area. Vocabularies may be extraordinarily rich and some children sound like "little professors." However, persons with AS can be extremely literal and have difficulty using language in a social context.

(taken from the website http://www.udel.edu/bkirby/asperger)


Christopher John Francis Boone is a 15-year old boy with Asperger Syndrome. He is excellent in math and sciences. He is extremely logical and extremely literal—he can comprehend what a similie is but not a metaphor. He cannot tell jokes, and doesn’t like it when people laugh at him. He can comprehend only two emotions, happy or sad; he cannot read mixed emotions on a person’s face.

He hates to be touched, even by his parents. If he is, he lashes out. Because he refuses to be hugged, his parents devised a way of physically showing their love: they hold up their right hand, spread their fingers out like a fan, and they make their thumbs and fingers touch one another.

Christopher, in other words, is no ordinary character. He is the extraordinary subject and “author”/narrator of the story told in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, a terrific page-turner by Mark Haddon. At the start of the book Christoper find his neighbor’s dog dead on the lawn, speared by a garden fork. He then starts an investigation to track down the killer and write a murder mystery about it. But a dog-killer isn’t the only thing he finds out in the course of investigation.

Because Haddon writes from Christopher’s point of view and voice, the whole book is written in a very logical, non-emotional way. Yet it is precisely this just-the-facts-ma’am style which makes the book so powerfully moving. The reader is forced to read between the facts and supply the emotion. This makes for an unbelievable engaging and interactive read.

When Christopher’s father finds out what he was up to and gets angry, the ensuing fight is made all the more terrible because of the simplicity and spareness of the language: So I was very surprised when he grabbed me. I don’t like it when people grab me. And I don’t like being surprised either. So I hit him.... But Father didn’t let go and he was shouting. And I hit him again. And then I didn’t know what I was doing anymore.

What’s more, a book such as this can easily veer towards Saccarine-ville, but Haddon deftly avoids such pitfalls. Instead he creates very memorable characters that, while described in black-and-white terms by Christopher, reveal themselves to be more complex and more human. Indeed his characters are of different shades of gray. Haddon also pulls off a great mystery novel wherein the case is as much about the investigator as is the investigated.

The book is a very easy read—I was able to finish it in about half a day. So in case you ever get bedridden and, like me, will look for anything to read just to keep my mind occupied and not get bored, you will do well to grab a copy of this extraordinary book. Heck, you should read this even if you are well.

(Available in Fully Booked, 3rd level, Gateway Mall, Cubao, Q.C. It is placed in the Young Adult section. At first I disagreed with the classification, but on further reflection I thought young adults shouldn’t be deprived of this wonderful book.)

5 Comments:

Blogger BERNADETTE said...

marce!

wish ko lang magaleng ka na da vah?

1:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

yay! welcome back!

yay! you read it already!

xanderKhan!

11:04 AM  
Blogger McVie said...

Marce Bernadette, I'm still nursing a cold and a sore throat, so I sound like Chuchi. But I'm better now. I WILL be well by this Saturday. I'm conditioning my body to bend to my will. :-)

xanderKhan: Not only have I read it, I'm now trying to infect others with the book. I've "forced" my younger brother to read it, and now with the shout-out here I hope others will follow.

12:21 PM  
Anonymous Zed said...

I've been checking out blog reviews of this book since I have recently read it and a) you are the first to have included a description of what aspergers syndrome actually is, which b) means you checked it out and c) this means that the book has done more than entertain you. How's that for logical progression?

5:57 PM  
Blogger McVie said...

ZED: How very logical; just what Christopher would have done. :-)

The author (Haddon) never mentioned Asperger's Syndrome, so I guess most of the blog reviewers had no idea of the specific condition Christopher had. But I was lucky enough to get a copy wherein a reviewer mentioned the syndrome by name, and that got me researching. Yes, the book has done more than just entertain me.

I see you've also included a description of Asperger Syndrome in your review--a more understandable, more concise description, if I may add. That comes from your intimate and first-hand knowledge of the disorder.

I may not really know what it's like to be a parent of someone with Asperger Syndrome, but after reading the book I come away with a greater appreciation for the people who do, as well as for those with the disorder as well.

6:27 PM  

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