Thoughts Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes, Bantam Books 1968 (orig 1959), 216
So much for trying not to be SPOILED and thus it was ruined anyway. This would be the BEST book to have been warned thoroughly about what it IS about. (Maybe? Jenny could/should have sent me an all-caps email that said PLEASE YOU MUST READ THE ENDING FIRST! YOU WILL THANK ME.) This is NOT one to be in the dark for. Now, you want a totally-blind know-nothing-read then go try Life After Life by Kate Atkinson or We Were Liars by E.Lockhart. These two should definitely be books to go in COLD.
But NOT Flowers!
This is a cautionary tale of how an incorrect misleading spoiler (or just an untruth!) was misunderstood and how my over-imagination caused much confusion.
It’s just too hard to have classics be totally spoiler-free and over-hyped. I shouldn’t try. It also did not help that I had this confused with Harrison’s Flowers because I seriously SERIOUSLY had thought for many years that it was a war torn love story. And when that bubble burst, I somehow got the impression this TRULY had space aliens! I thought I accidentally saw a spoiler that the mouse was an intelligent space alien!!! Where I got this, I can no longer ascertain. Apparently, I was hoping for Ralph of The Mouse and the Motorcycle.
So, yea. DISAPPOINTED.
I’m thinking I need to write some fanfic for this book involving mice-driven spaceships and romances ripped apart by the savageness of war.
Outer Space or Outer Banks NC House… Supposedly the 2nd most photographed building in North Carolina)
According to Wiki, Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginative content such as futuristic settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, time travel, faster than light travel, parallel universes and extraterrestrial life. Come on, Care, you are SMARTER than to assume all SciFi is aliens and outer space. IKR!? Well, this did not feel like science fiction. Perhaps because it was based in the past? I’m so out of my league when discussing the SF genre, right? Just because I’ve read Neuromancer and Snow Crash and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, I *think* have a grasp on this slippery genre?! Go ahead, banish me from the club. I deserve it. I wish I hadn’t known that it won the Hugo award nor the Nebula Award. Pretty cool that it won, but I wish I didn’t know it.
OK, then. What is this about? It’s about how a science/medical team attempted to ‘fix’ a low IQ in order to make a human being smarter but they all failed to grasp the consequences on an emotional level. Sometimes, I thought this was expressed well and was quite nuanced in the telling. Other times, I was annoyed at Charlie and often thought he was rude and disrespectful, to women especially; but I have to realize that he learned too much, too fast and the whole point was that he didn’t have the gradual maturing to navigate and understand relationships. Life is complicated… yes, it’s extremely complicated. The story IS sad.
Please read Bellezza’s review, and/or Athira’s Halfway Post.
Two or three slices of pie depending on how I feel when you ask me. I don’t recall any pie mentions.
BIG THANK YOU to ATHIRA and TRISH for reading & tweeting along with me!
Sickness Quotient: 76% — Your “Sickness Quotient” of 76% indicates therapy may be useful.
Detailed Diagnosis —
- Interpersonal Insights: Your sense of self-entitlement means you’re probably the kind of person that pulled the wings off of butterflies when you were little. You think everyone is out to get you, and you’re absolutely right. It’s because you’re an awful person without any redeeming qualities.
- Job Performance & Attitude: Your work is of so little value they should just put a shredder in place of your Out basket You frequently mention terms like “core competencies” and “paradigm shifts” while at work. Stop acting like such a tool.
- Personality Insight: Your personal motto is “Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better.” You must not have been saying this for very long.
22 thoughts on “Final Thoughts — Flowers for Algernon #MayFFA”
Isn’t it interesting how we come to books with preconceived ideas? I didn’t have time to develop any of my own about this book as it was required reading in high school, and what I didn’t know at seventeen years of age was a lot! (I’m still confused about why high school students are reading terribly sophisticated literature such as Hemingway’s Farewell to Arms, when they nothing about war, death or love.)
Anyway, I’ve read Flowers for Algernon at least twice in my life, and each time have been so saddened. It brings up a terrific debate about whether science has any business interfering in someone’s life. Some could say Charlie was better for his experience, others could say let well enough alone.
What I loved about the book was how real Daniel Keyes made Charlie. He seemed to leap off the page to me, his personality and behavior was so well drawn. I didn’t see him as especially rude to women; I think a lot of brilliant people are socially unaware. Or, maybe that just comes from the children with Aspergers in our school. Smart, but tactless.
Thank you for linking to my post. I have appreciated your involvement with my review of the book. xo
Thank you! for the insights and joining with us. I am glad I saw your post.
I feel for you, but still could never bring myself to spoil the ending of Flowers for Algernon!
I know; I’m asking for someone to have told me ahead of time that there were NO MICE SPACE ALIENS! How would anyone know I thought that?!
Thanks, Care, for getting me to read it. I’ve always been put off by the title. (I have no idea why.) The ending is sad, though I can see why it’s an award-winning story.
Yikes! I didn’t realize SMH that you were reading this THIS May! I thought you had read it awhile ago. I’m so thankful for your input and sharing about the versions. I just got home with *improved* access to my computer/blogs/internet so I need to run over and see if you reviewed this.
I haven’t reviewed it, but now I’m thinking about it. 🙂
DO! I will link to it.
I had to read this in Jr. High and have always wanted to re-read it. I decided to add it to my summer reading list so got it for my Kindle a few days ago,
Lovely! I hope you find it a good experience. It is fun to revisit books – only I’m just now finding that out. Only recently a ‘re-reader’.
Enjoyed your post Care and am sorry I didn’t get a copy and read along. Even though I read this in high school (maybe even junior high?), I don’t remember the ending.
Thinking seriously about a “rereading high school” project!
Yes, do that However, I don’t remember much. I know I read Tale of Two Cities, too many Steinbecks and Les Miz. That’s it. SAD.
I will totally be with you on the reading high school / childrens books project. I feel more acutely about it now because we have a kid on the way and I haven’t read much of the American classics that kids read in school.
I’m not sure if kids in school read classics anymore! 😀
Now I really wish I had had time to read along with you. Not because you didn’t like it but because I have so little recall of the book other than that Charlie had a low IQ. And that it made me sad. Ditto on the utter lack of knowledge of sci-fi, though. Because even though this one is clearly a science based work of fiction, it totally would not fall into what I think of as sci-fi.
Thank you. We can both join the wrong-headed-scifi club? Or is that too harsh?
My only experience with this book is an excerpt from it I was forced to read in high school, and from what I remember, I was really, really sad upon reading the excerpt.
You want me to send my copy? 😀
Ah so that’s the misconception you had. I did have the same thought as well when I bought the book – not space aliens, but I imagined more technological stuff and things going wrong. Honestly, I would not put this book in the scifi category, space aliens or not. We may not have the technology (yet) to modify human intelligence (is that true?) but it’s not something hard to imagine. I guess 50 years ago it was probably a futuristic idea, but now it feels like that time has come and gone, with or without that technology.
That last chapter about Charlie going back to school? Broke my heart, that one. I couldn’t get past it. He went from calling her Alice to Miss Kinian – so heart breaking.
Thank YOU for suggesting a readalong. I am glad I read it even though I had mixed feelings as well. I did have issues with women’s portrayal in this one – I could say that it was the times and all, but that excuse always bums me. We did have strong women even then. (I just came home after watching Mad Max, so I’m also running on a feminism high.)
Thank YOU! It was fun and a way more interesting book than I expected, to be honest.
oh dear care!!!! Yes, I guess this book was probably quite the shock for you. I knew it was about an experiment and likely intelligence but didn’t know much more than that. I just finished typing my review to post tomorrow and I think I used the word “sad” a billion times. I agree that Charlie was an ass…but I do think a lot of it was the maturity level. When I got to the end of my post I realized that in that way it kind of reminds me of The Rosie Project. Sometimes booksmart and people smart aren’t always the same!
Glad you hosted the “readalong” even if you were taken WAY off guard with the subject.