Skip to main content

Asperger Syndrome Does Not Belong To Mark Haddon

I have been hearing from critics, editors, and pr people in London, many of whom are astonished that Sumia Sukkar's brilliant, riveting, timely, and very moving novel about a Syrian family who become refugees, has failed to receive more media attention here in the UK - only The Times got the value of the book (and gave it a terrific review). One of the reasons, it seems, is that some people feel that having a character in the novel who has Asperger Syndrome somehow renders it cliche, or overly familiar.  Indeed, someone close to Mark Haddon, author of the best-selling The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (now a smash hit play in the West End), said he declines to endorse any new fiction involving persons with Asperger Syndrome.

Now, let us step back and be clear.  Asperger Syndrome is not a gimmick merely useful for a plot point, or a good novel.  It is a very real condition, that affects millions of families around the world. The fact that Sumia's novel has a character with this condition in no way invalidates the far wider context of the novel - an exploration of family life and love in a Muslim culture, facing threat of war.  To suggest it does would be to suggest that representations of "disability" somehow should be rationed.  I have heard some reviewers sigh - not another Asperger's book.  Really?  What about "another" woman's book, or black book, or blind book, or gay book, or cancer book?  Writing about Asperger's is not like writing about teen vampires or kinky sex.  It isn't a lifestyle choice or a myth. Human experience is multiple, varied, and complex.  Mark Haddon did not use creative brilliance to invent the character of his boy hero - he drew on well-known facts, on a real condition.  Haddon does not own Asperger's.

No writer holds the moral copyright on any human condition - be that love, death, suffering, illness, poverty - the list is endless.  It is sad, tedious, and unimaginative to have pigeonholed the Sukkar novel - a great novel that transcends and transforms and deepens the Asperger's Genre (as it is becoming called by some critics) - as merely a Haddon rip-off.  Indeed, the Incident in Haddon is very limited in scope, to two families, and one dog.  In Sukkar, the incident, sadly real, relates to millions of displaced persons.  As one reviewer online put it, to compare Haddon's hero to Sukkar's is like saying that Holden Caulfield is the same as Anne Frank, simply because they were both adolescents.
Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

DANGER, MAN

Like a crazed killer clown, whether we are thrilled, horrified, shocked, or angered (or all of these) by Donald Trump, we cannot claim to be rid of him just yet. He bestrides the world stage like a silverback gorilla (according to one British thug), or a bad analogy, but he is there, a figure, no longer of fun, but grave concern.

There has long been a history of misogynistic behaviour in American gangster culture - one thinks of the grapefruit in the face in The Public Enemy, or Sinatra throwing a woman out of his hotel room and later commenting he didn't realise there was a pool below to break her fall, or the polluted womb in Pacino'sScarface... and of course, some gangsta rap is also sexist.  American culture has a difficult way with handling the combined aspects of male power, and male privilege, that, especially in heteronormative capitalist enclaves, where money/pussy both become grabbable, reified objects and objectives (The Wolf of Wall Street for instance), an ugly fus…

AMERICA PSYCHO

According to the latest CBS, ABC, etc, polls, Clinton is still likely to beat Trump - by percentile odds of 66% to 33% and change. But the current popular vote is much closer, probably tied with the error of margin, around 44% each. Trump has to win more key battleground states to win, and may not - but he is ahead in Florida...

We will all know, in a week, whether we live in a world gone madder, or just relatively mad.

While it seems likely calmer heads will prevail, the recent Brexit win shows that polls can mislead, especially when one of the options is considered a bit embarrassing, rude or even racist - and Trump qualifies for these, at least.

If 42-45% of Americans admit they would vote for Trump, what does that say about the ones not so vocal? For surely, they must be there, as well. Some of the undecided will slide, and more likely they will slide to the wilder and more exciting fringe candidate. As may the libertarians.

Eyewear predicts that Trump will just about manage to win th…

SEXTON SHORTLIST!

Announcing the Shortlist for the 2016 Sexton PrizeSeptember 13, 2016 / By Kelly Davio
Eyewear Publishing is pleased to announce the shortlist for the 2016 Sexton Prize. The finalists are, in no particular order, as follows:


THE BARBAROUS CENTURY, Leah Umansky
HISTORY OF GONE, Lynn Schmeidler
SEVERE CLEAR, Maya Catherine Popa
GIMME THAT. DON’T SMITE ME, Steve Kronen
SCHEHERAZADE AND OTHER REDEPLOYMENTS, David McAleavey
AN AMERICAN PURGATORY, Rebecca Gayle Howell
SIT IN THE DARK WITH ME, Jesse Lee Kercheval

The shortlist was selected by Eyewear’s Director Todd Swift with Senior Editor Kelly Davio. Don Share of Poetry Magazine will select the winning manuscript, which will be released at the 2017 AWP conference in Washington, D.C. The winner will be announced in October. 
Congratulations to our finalists!