Monday, November 15, 2010

Flowers for Algernon

by Daniel Keyes

I liked this book better when I read it in Middle School, because it was something new. Now I don't care for it. Maybe that's because this is my second reading of it, or because now I'm a better judge of literature.

"Flowers for Algernon" makes me think of "Frankenstein," a Michael Crichton novel, and "Girls of Tender Age" -- the bits about Tyler. There are definitely echoes of the Byronic hero in this novel: both Charlie and Prof. Nemur. Though Nemur is also a little bit like Macbeth, but the little story Burt tells about Nemur's pushy wife is really just a throw-away poor excuse for his behavior.

This book feels painfully inauthentic to me. It is clearly someone trying too hard to write a novel about a mentally-challenged/ coming-of-age young man. It comes across as stereotypical. The personal accounts and insights don't go deep enough. His progress is too fast to appreciate. The author continually draws attention to this in a way that feels like an apology and cover-up of flawed story telling and structure. And none of the stories ring true. That is partially a result of the way Charlie recounts his past, as if he is watching someone else, rather than reliving and experiencing his past, making him a bit of a schizophrenic suffering from a personality disorder. But, again, this are observations upon second reading.

That being said, this book does make one think about the way they treat or have treated other people in the past. It is a good book worth reading.

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