Mark Haddon's book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time is a real interesting read.
To begin with, it's good. It's the first-person account of a fifteen-year-old with severe autism who sets out to figure out who killed the dog owned by the woman across the street. Christopher Boone's detective story is broken up by his personal reflections, his take on the world, which both let the reader into his way of seeing and are fine bravura pieces of writing. The story doesn't suffer; it's increasingly compelling, and takes a radical shift halfway through. It does read a bit like a screenplay in terms of structure, complete with a slightly aimless third act. That aside, it's well worth the read.
What's most interesting to me, though, is the way in which Haddon (probably unintentionally) sends up modernist and post-modernist notions of 'good writing'. His prose is bare of metaphor and (intentional) emotional content, because Christopher understands neither. The fact that the book is so gripping follows from Christopher saying more than he understands; which is theoretically where the punch in most modern literary fiction comes from. But look again: the narrator here is autistic, suffering from neurological impairment. If that's what it takes to produce the ideal literary protagonist, what does it say about literary fictoin? Christopher's story is punctuated with sharp observation of people around him, concrete tactile details such as are suppposed to be the hallmark of good writing. How does he know to include them? Because his creative writing teacher told him that details make for good writing, and because one of the symptoms of his autism is an acute Holmes-like power of observation.
So: what we learn from The Curious Incident is that literary fiction's ideal narrator suffers from autism. If this is so, what can we conclude about literary fiction's ideal readers, writers, and critics?