By ANITA SINGH – June 8, 2015
The author of The Curious Incident of the Dog In The Night-Time has expressed reservations about the novel being used as an autism “textbook” by social workers and police forces.
Mark Haddon’s story about a 15-year-old boy with behavioural problems was a runaway best-seller when it was published in 2003.
The main character, Christopher, is mathematically gifted but unable to interpret human emotions or countenance being touched.
The book jacket described him as suffering from Asperger’s syndrome, but Haddon told the Hay Festival audience in 2012 that he had never specified any disorder and was uncomfortable with the book’s status as a handbook for autistic spectrum disorders.
“It is used as a textbook for social workers, and for policemen, which is something I heard recently. I never meant it to be a textbook,” he told an audience at the Telegraph Hay Festival.
“I’m a little worried if people are saying, ‘If you want to work out how to treat people on the spectrum, read this novel’.
“I also get a bit worried when people say, ‘I’ve got Asperger’s, my family have never understood me but I gave them your book and it opened a window’.
“I want to say, ‘I wish the people in your life had been able to make the leap of imagination to understand your world without having to go into a bookshop and buy a book’.”
The book is being made into a film by David Heyman and Steve Kloves, the producer and screenwriter behind the Harry Potter franchise.
Haddon has signed over the rights and will have no involvement in the screen version, but he remains sanguine about it.
“The film is drifting in the background. I’m maintaining a Zen Buddhist detachment about it all.
“I’m very lucky because the Curious Incident is pretty robust. It has spread around the globe like a benign version of bubonic plague. I think even a dreadful film won’t arrest its passage.
“So I think I will just let it happen. I will be intrigued at how they will make a film out of what is supposed to be an unfilmable book.”
He added: “When someone buys the film rights, you can do one of two things: either take the cheque and shut up or, if you’re going to moan about it, don’t take the cheque in the first place. I’ve taken the cheque.”
Haddon said he had faith in Steve Kloves to do a decent job: “He wrote all but one of the two Harry Potter films but also wrote and directed The Fabulous Baker Boys and Wonder Boys, two films which could have been terribly sentimental but weren’t. So I think I’m in good hands.”
The author, whose latest book is The Red House, has sworn never to work in film or television again after a particularly bruising experience with the BBC.
His last BBC credit was Coming Down The Mountain, a 2007 drama about the relationship between a boy with Down’s Syndrome and his brother.
Haddon said: “I would never work in film or TV again. There’s too much politics, too much money and very little art.
“In TV, you’re having to keep a lot of people happy who have no interest in the quality of the programme at all. They’re interested in budgets and the people involved are more concerned about their own career paths.
“It was incredibly frustrating. I did a one-off drama on the BBC and we so fell out with the commissioner that everyone just walked off set and went home. They commissioned the programme, saw it and said, ‘That’s great. Can you completely cut it for another audience?’ That happens a lot.”
By contrast, working in theatre is a pleasure. Staging his play, Polar Bears, at the Donmar Warehouse was “a fantastic experience” all round. “It was entirely fulfilling. We had creative tussles but no-one was fundamentally fighting each other.”
This article was first published in June 2012. In June 2015, Alex Sharp won a Tony Award for best lead actor in a play for his role in the stage version of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which also won best play, best lighting, scenic design and earned its director Marianne Elliott a Tony, too.